Maryland could become the latest US state to legalise recreational cannabis after the House of Delegates last week approved legislation to put it on the ballot in November’s general election.
The move — which is yet to go before the Senate — authorises a constitutional amendment that would appear on the ballot with voters then deciding whether to legalise recreational use for people aged 21-plus.
It passed in the Democrat-controlled House by 96 votes to 34.
Under the proposal, over-21s could possess up to 1.5 ounces of recreational cannabis, with possession of 1.5 to 2.5 ounces reduced to a civil offence from a misdemeanor.
If approved, regulatory details, such as how to tax sales, would be decided by the General Assembly and take effect in July 2023, at which point Maryland would join Washington, D.C. and 18 states to have legalised recreational use.
Under a companion bill — approved by 92-37 votes — people charged with cannabis possession would have their records expunged while those currently in jail could apply to have their sentence reduced to time served.
House judiciary committee chair and Democratic delegate Luke Clippinger said the legislation was an important first step towards reversing years convictions.
“Those thousands of incarcerations have not made us safer,” he added.
The Senate is considering alternative options, including a proposal that would not require a constitutional amendment and would speed up the establishment of regulatory procedures by the General Assembly.