As leading Maryland lawmakers call for marijuana legalization, polling suggests the measure would enjoy overwhelming support from voters.

According to the most recent Goucher College survey, more than two-thirds (67 percent) of Marylanders are in favor of legalizing cannabis for adult-use in the state, while just 28 percent are opposed. The last time Goucher asked Maryland residents their opinion on marijuana legalization in 2019, 57 percent supported the measure, while in 2013 support stood at just 51 percent.

This growing support bodes well given a pledge recently made by House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D). Despite having misgivings about encouraging cannabis use among children and young people, she wants to pass a bill that would require the state to hold a referendum in 2022 on the question of marijuana legalization. To that end, Jones has convened a working group to determine the best way to go about implementing the reform.

“The disparate criminal justice impact [of cannabis prohibition] leads me to believe that the voters should have a say in the future of legalization,” Jones said.

Senate President Bill Ferguson (D), meanwhile, thinks a referendum on the issue next year is too long to wait. Rather, he wants the legislature to expeditiously pass a bill allowing for adult-use marijuana in Maryland.

“What I’m hoping for this year is that we can put forward a real framework,” said Ferguson, who cosponsored a cannabis legalization bill last session. “Look, there are very real concerns, be it around drugged driving or access to children. All of those things are absolutely essential and so that’s why it’s the responsibility of the General Assembly to put forward a framework that takes care of all of those issues and is thoughtful in the way that we approach adult use.”

Ferguson believes convening another marijuana legalization working group is also not desirable, given he co-chaired a 2019 working group on the issue which he claims “identified the key decision points and models for legalization in Maryland.”

Maryland legalized medical marijuana in 2013, but since then more comprehensive attempts at cannabis legalization have faltered. Instead, the state has enacted incremental reforms such as the decriminalization of possession up to 10 grams as well as a court ruling that determined law enforcement can no longer use the smell of marijuana as the sole reason to stop and search people.