Maryland’s radical drug legalization movement gaining ground

Listen to this article

By Greg Kline

As the General Assembly session moves towards its conclusion, the direction of the legislature on a number of issues is becoming clearer. One such issue is the legalization or decriminalization of drugs and drug-related crimes.

Prior to the election of 2014, there was a full court press to legalize marijuana in Maryland both for recreational and medicinal uses.  Many in the marijuana legalization movement were convinced that Maryland was the next Colorado and would quickly join the states legalizing and taxing pot sales.

Instead, the best proponents could pass was a complex medical marijuana regime, still being worked out in detail, and a ham-handed decriminalization effort that still has left many details unresolved.

The proponents of marijuana legalization have not stopped.  This year alone, they overturned a veto by the governor of a bill which decriminalized possession of drug paraphernalia and made public consumption of marijuana less penalized than public consumption of alcohol.

In addition, marijuana advocates introduced bills to create a constitutional right to marijuana and to allow dentists, podiatrists and even nurse midwives to recommend medical marijuana to patients, including pregnant women, among numerous other proposals.

It doesn’t end with marijuana

But the drug legalization effort does not end with marijuana. It has become much more radical than simply legalizing pot.

In 2013, in commenting on the folly of marijuana legalization, I wrote the following in the Baltimore Sun:

“This creeping approach to legalization of marijuana is always bolstered by arguments that also support legalization of all drugs. It is pretty obvious where the drug legalization advocates next target is and what their ultimate goal will be: full legalization of all drugs. Of course, few advocates would dare say such a thing openly, but the direction of their logic is straightforward and undeniable.”

At the time, such suggestions were considered inflammatory and I was criticized during a radio forum on the issue by Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Baltimore County) for making such claims. He and others insisted that they opposed legalization of dangerous drugs like heroin and cocaine and such “slippery slope” arguments were baseless fear mongering.

A radical movement

A number of proposals in this year’s General Assembly session, however, show clearly that there is, in fact, a very radical drug legalization movement among many Maryland legislators.

Del. Dan Morhaim, D-Baltimore County, introduced a bill, HB 1119, which would have decriminalized small amounts of all controlled substances including heroin, cocaine and other highly dangerous and addictive drugs.

Del. Morhaim justified his proposal by making the same argument that marijuana advocates had made years earlier, namely that decriminalization of all drugs would free up police resources and reduce incarceration of drug users.

Such an argument is logically consistent with the proponents of marijuana legalization who constantly mention the “failed War On Drugs.”.  After all, as I mentioned in 2013, legalizing marijuana will not end the “War on Drugs” and such arguments militate that all drugs be legalized.

But the movement to remove criminal penalties for drug users has gone far beyond crimes dealing with drug use and possession. Taking an even more radical step, Del. Curt Anderson, D-Baltimore City, introduced a bill, HB 1362, which sought to remove criminal penalties for particular robbery, burglary and theft offenses where the perpetrator is a drug addict.

Such a proposal exceeds any justification by drug legalization advocates that the government has no business regulating what citizens do behind closed doors. In fact, it is hard to imagine how even the most libertarian drug legalization proponent could justify a law which the property rights of an innocent victim simply because the criminal is a drug addict.

License for destructive behavior

Indeed, the decriminalization of property crimes coupled with a decriminalization of possession of even the most harmful and addictive drugs is a license for destructive behavior and a recipe for the destabilization of civil society.

With these proposals, it is clear that the movement toward drug legalization will not end with even the full legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes.  Rather, there exists a radical movement in the legislature actively seeking to remove all criminal penalties for the use of any drug and even for crimes committed in furtherance of drug addiction.

This was the predictable goal of legalization advocates who insisted just a couple of years ago that removing the criminal penalties of marijuana use was their ultimate purpose.

6 thoughts on “Maryland’s radical drug legalization movement gaining ground

  • March 18, 2016 at 11:36 AM

    This author’s moral approbation of drug use is immaterial. People have used drugs since the beginning of time and Prohibition has been completely ineffectual at preventing this. The question is not whether or not drugs will be sold, but who will sell them, criminals or regulated, responsible, law abiding citizens? Moreover, we have decreased use by over 50% of the most dangerous drug of all, cigarettes, in a completely legal and regulated market without arresting or ruining one person’s life. This success has never been accomplished in 100 years of prohibition!

    Regulating dangerous behavior is centrist and sane. Prohibition abdicates control of dangerous drugs. We didn’t end alcohol prohibition because alcohol is safe. We ended it because alcohol is dangerous and becomes infinitely more so when we abdicate its control to violent criminals and subsidize them with outrageous profits.

    Prohibition doesn’t decrease supply, it subsidizes it! In the 1970’s we measured interdictions by the pound, today we measure them by the HUNDREDS OF TONS!

    “If you look at the drug war from a purely economic point of view, the role of the government is to protect the drug cartel. That’s literally true.” -Milton Friedman

    Prohibition subsidizes violence, which is why we ended it in the 1930s. In the 1970s there were two small gangs in East LA with a combined population of 150 people. Today those gangs exist in every major city and total 150,000. They are called the Bloods and the Crypts. Prohibition subsidized a 1,000 fold expansion of violence with obscene profits unheard of in any legal industry. Legalize drugs and the Bloods and Crypts disappear.

    In Mexico, the drug war is responsible for 164,000 deaths! The Cartels cut off the heads of police and hang their bodies off of bridges. Prohibition doesn’t stop this, it subsidizes it!

    No rational person believes that Prohibition decreases the flow of drugs and the only rational alternative is to regulate them!

  • March 17, 2016 at 7:51 PM

    Let’s not intentionally try to alarm and worry the public about legalizing “all drugs” right now.

    That concept is often used as a scare-tactic by prohibitionists in an attempt to frighten the public away from marijuana legalization by clumping marijuana legalization in with the legalization of other drugs which are far more scary and dangerous than relatively benign,often healing marijuana.

    Marijuana is just about the safest drug out there. Legal or not, and much less dangerous than perfectly legal, widely accepted, endlessly advertised, often glorified alcohol consumption.

    Which makes marijuana legalization unique, and certainly a much different, and far more urgent matter than the legalization of “all drugs” right now.

    Let’s not lose focus of the real issue at hand here. Marijuana, the only currently illegal recreational drug that is much safer than perfectly legal alcohol.

    Legalize Marijuana Nationwide!

    • March 17, 2016 at 7:51 PM

      Fear of Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is unfounded. Not based on any science or fact whatsoever. So please prohibitionists, we beg you to give your scare tactics, “Conspiracy Theories” and “Doomsday Scenarios” over the inevitable Legalization of Marijuana Nationwide a rest. Nobody is buying them anymore these days. Okay?

      Furthermore, if all prohibitionists get when they look into that nice, big and shiny, crystal ball of theirs, while wondering about the future of marijuana legalization, is horror, doom, and despair, well then I suggest they return that thing as quickly as possible and reclaim the money they shelled out for it, since it’s obviously defective.

      The prohibition of marijuana has not decreased the supply nor the demand for marijuana at all. Not one single iota, and it never will. Just a huge and complete waste of our tax dollars to continue criminalizing citizens for choosing a natural, non-toxic, relatively benign plant proven to be much safer than alcohol.

      If prohibitionists are going to take it upon themselves to worry about “saving us all” from ourselves, then they need to start with the drug that causes more death and destruction than every other drug in the world COMBINED, which is alcohol!

      Why do prohibitionists feel the continued need to vilify and demonize marijuana when they could more wisely focus their efforts on a real, proven killer, alcohol, which again causes more destruction, violence, and death than all other drugs, COMBINED?

      Prohibitionists really should get their priorities straight and/or practice a little live and let live. They’ll live longer, happier, and healthier, with a lot less stress if they refrain from being bent on trying to control others through Draconian Marijuana Laws.

      • March 17, 2016 at 7:52 PM

        The “War on Marijuana” has been a complete and utter failure. It is the largest component of the broader yet equally unsuccessful “War on Drugs” that has cost our country over a trillion dollars.

        Instead of The United States wasting Billions upon Billions more of our tax dollars fighting a never ending “War on Marijuana”, lets generate Billions of dollars, and improve the deficit instead. It’s a no brainer.

        The Prohibition of Marijuana has also ruined the lives of many of our loved ones. In numbers greater than any other nation, our loved ones are being sent to jail and are being given permanent criminal records which ruin their chances of employment for the rest of their lives, and for what reason?

        Marijuana is much safer to consume than alcohol. Yet do we lock people up for choosing to drink?

        Even The President of the United States has consumed marijuana. Has it hurt his chances at succeeding in life? If he had gotten caught by the police during his college years, he may have very well still been in prison today! Beyond that, he would then be fortunate to even be able to find a minimum wage job that would consider hiring him with a permanent criminal record. Let’s end this hypocrisy now!

        The government should never attempt to legislate morality by creating victim-less marijuana “crimes” because it simply does not work and costs the taxpayers a fortune.

        Marijuana Legalization Nationwide is an inevitable reality that’s approaching much sooner than prohibitionists think and there is nothing they can do to stop it!

        Legalize Nationwide! Support Each and Every Marijuana Legalization Initiative!

  • March 17, 2016 at 5:52 PM

    Prohibitionists, you owe the rest of us answers to the following questions:

    #1. Why are you not concerned with the fact that we have all been stripped of our unalienable rights, leaving us totally subordinate to a corporatized, despotic government and a heavily armed and corrupt, militarized police force whose often deadly intrusions into our homes and lives are condoned by an equally corrupt and spineless judiciary?

    #2. Why do you wish to continue to spend $50 billion a year to prosecute and cage your fellow citizens for choosing substances which are not more dangerous than those of which you yourself probably use and approve of, such as alcohol and tobacco?

    #3. Do you honestly expect the rest of us to look on passively while you waste another trillion dollars on this ruinously expensive garbage policy?

    #4. Why are you waging war on your own family, friends and neighbors?

    #5. Why are you so complacent with the fact that our once ‘proud and free’ nation now has the largest percentage of it’s citizenry incarcerated than any other on the entire planet?

    #6. Why are you helping to fuel a budget crisis to the point of closing hospitals, schools and libraries?

    #7. Why do you wish to continue spending precious resources on prohibition related undercover work while rapists and murderers walk free, while additionally, many cases involving murder and rape do not even get taken to trial because law enforcement priorities are subverted by your beloved failed and dangerous policy?

    #8. Why are you a supporter of the ‘prison industrial complex’ to the extent of endangering our nation’s children?

    #9. Will you graciously applaud when, due to your own incipient and authoritarian approach, even your own child is caged and raped?

    * It is estimated that there are over 300,000 instances of prison rape a year.
* 196,000 are estimated to happen to men in prison.
* 123,000 are estimated to happen to men in county jail.
* 40,000 are estimated to be committed against boys in either adult prisons or while in juvenile facilities or lock ups.
* 5000 women are estimated to be raped in prison.

    #10. How much worse does it have to get before you’re able to read the paintings on the wall of your cave?

  • March 17, 2016 at 5:26 PM

    Prohibition is the opposite of liberty.

    It’s time to legalize for adults.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.