BALTIMORE, MARYLAND — According to several public opinion polls conducted in recent years, a growing majority of Marylanders agree that providing adults access to cannabis under a regulated supply chain produces beHer public health and public safety outcomes than what we have in the unregulated legacy market.
A majority of legislators in the Maryland General Assembly also agree, but popular legalization proposals have failed to move forward.
“Our political institutions have failed us – we continue to have tens-of-thousands of racially biased possession arrests while the Assembly slow-walks reform,” said Luke Jones, Director of the Maryland chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). “The reality is even worse when we consider all the avoidable encounters between marijuana consumers and police that don’t lead to an arrest. The general public is fed up with this outrageously expensive, harmful, and racist marijuana prohibition policy,” he said.
Marijuana legalization advocates have promoted reform for more than forty years nationally and have been organized at the state level since popular Baltimore City Mayor Kurt Schmoke helped bring the drug war reform conversation to Maryland in the 1980’s. After years of trying traditional legislative reform efforts on behalf of cannabis consumers and their families, activists have decided to change tactics and are now taking their fight for reform directly to industry insiders who boycott organizers say have an outsized impact on public policy and are actively preventing essential, popular policy reforms.
“We are asking all medical cannabis patients in Maryland to not purchase Culta-brand products during the month of April because Culta owner Mackie Barch is using his wealth and political influence to delay the arrival of expanded personal freedom for the average citizen. Maryland law should protect citizens, not investors. Our laws should facilitate safe business practices, not establish artificial monopolies,” said Jones.
“Mackie Barch lives in one of the most affluent communities in the country and is represented in the General Assembly by Sen. Brian Feldman, a powerful member of the Senate, vice chair of the Senate Finance Committee, personal friends with Senate President Bill Ferguson, member of the General Assembly’s marijuana legalization work group, and sponsor of Senate Bill 708, a bill drafted by Mackie Barch to help assure limited competition in Maryland’s adult use cannabis market,” said Kris Furnish, co- founder of Maryland Marijuana Justice (MDMJ). “Political corruption, that’s what this is, plain and simple. The cannabis plant belongs to the people, and we should not face jail time if choose to grow our own cannabis instead of purchasing it from Mackie Barch,” she said.
Boycott organizers view current state law as clear evidence of a collusion between elected officials and medical cannabis business owners who curry financial and reputational influence on the legislative process at the expense of individual liberty and personal freedom. “Our laws should protect citizens and facilitate safe business practices, not establish artificial monopolies and compel consumers to purchase products they are perfectly capable of producing for themselves. We need the freedom to grow our own cannabis and to purchase products in a regulated market that has broad small business participation,” said Furnish.
“Mackie Barch is on the dole,” said Jones. “Mr. Barch has essentially admitted that Culta can’t survive without state-protected market access. He is the ring-leader and primary champion for the state licensed cannabis businesses seeking to maintain their state-sponsored monopoly status under the medical program and extend that favorable market position into the adult use market. Senate Bill 708 imposes statutory caps on the number of small businesses that can compete in the legal adult use cannabis market, and that approach is fundamentally unfair and un-American. Mackie Barch paid lobbyists like Vicente Sederberg LLC to develop that bill, and it shows how effective Mr. Barch has been at using his personal wealth and political connections to assure unfettered, state-protected access to marijuana consumers. It is protectionism, it is anti-American, and cannabis consumers won’t stand for it anymore,” said Jones.
Jones continued, “According to Maryland’s 2019 Uniform Crime Report, we had more than 15,000 marijuana possession arrests, all while the medical cannabis industry sells more than $46 million worth of marijuana products to consumers every month. This is evidence that our state policy is designed to serve the interests of industry investors who demand a return on their investments rather than serving the needs of Maryand citizens who live in constant fear of the police. Citizens don’t grow their own cannabis because they are afraid of their own government. Wealthy people like Mackie Barch who grow and sell marijuana receive special protections from the state, but consumers face jail time. Cannabis prohibition is bad public policy and it needs to end this year, not next year.”
Adults may legally buy and use marijuana in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington. Marijuana is also decriminalized in the District of Columbia.
Monday, March 22 is crossover, the last opportunity for the Maryland House of Delegates to move House Bill 32 to the Senate for consideration. Boycott organizers assert that the popular cannabis legalization proposal sponsored by Delegate Jazz Lewis (D-Prince George’s County) would become law if brought to the floor for a vote.