US (MD): Senate president says voters need to know what cannabis legalization would look like

With at least five competing cannabis legalization bills in play this session in Maryland, the state’s Senate president weighed in on Friday about how he’d like to see lawmakers proceed during the remaining weeks of the legislative session.

The House of Delegates passed legislation the week before that would ask voters whether to legalize cannabis for adults in the state, as well as a separate bill that lays out related criminal justice reforms. On the Senate side, two competing proposals have been introduced and are pending in committee: One that would legalize cannabis directly later this year as well as another voter referendum measure that includes a more comprehensive regulatory scheme than what’s detailed in the House-approved plan.

The Senate Finance considered both Senate proposals earlier this week but did not vote on either bill. At a press conference Friday, Senate President Bill Ferguson (D) took questions from reporters on the competing plans. He said that if lawmakers decide to move forward with a ballot referendum, they owe voters a better idea of what the new system would look like than what his colleagues in the other chamber have provided.

“It wouldn’t be my first choice,” Ferguson said of putting the proposed constitutional amendment to voters. “But what’s most important is if it does go to voters, they have to know what they’re voting on. They have to have an idea of what the framework would look like.”

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