The Maryland General Assembly is back in session, and the state’s education needs could mean that cannabis legalization will be a major policy contender in 2019. Several lawmakers recently voiced their concerns about Maryland’s education funding — or lack thereof — and some are weighing all viable options to get the necessary resources.
According to WTOP, State Sen. Craig Zucker said he would like “to make Maryland schools No. 1 again.” And State Del. Julian Ivey said his district’s schools “can’t cover the cost called for in the Kirwan Commission’s report on education policy,” which cites a need for $4 billion in additional revenue to support the state’s education system. What’s more, the report revealed that despite Maryland’s previous investments in pre-K through 12th-grade education, its system is “average at best within the U.S.”
In other words, the report states Maryland must face the reality that “its students still perform in the middle of the pack within the U.S., which is in the middle of the pack against the rest of the modern world.”
“We’re going to have to have some very tough conversations,” Ivey said on the first day of the general assembly meeting, which lasts three months.
Cannabis legalization, he continued, could provide a much-needed funding source for Maryland’s education initiatives. WTOP reports that he called it something lawmakers should strongly consider.
“It has to be something that we talk about,” he said, before adding that sports gambling could also bring in additional funds into the state. A bill to legalize sports betting in the Old Line State failed in the last session of state legislature, according to CBS Baltimore, but it’s likely to be reintroduced next year.
Ivey said he understands that not everyone is on board with adult-use legalization and gathering support for such a framework would likely be an uphill battle.
That said, Maryland lawmakers showed strong support for making prescription drugs more affordable as a way to generate income to put toward education. Several outlets report that this may actually pave the way for recreational cannabis.
Michael Busch, the House Speaker, told Education Week that lawmakers plan to study how to implement adult-use cannabis if Maryland voters decide to legalize it, which could happen as soon as next year.
“Whether you support it or whether you don’t support it personally, I think that’s the future,” Busch said during the Annapolis Summit. “I think you’re going to see the country go to legalizing recreational marijuana and, you know, it’ll be much like overturning prohibition.”
Maryland has made strides toward a more progressive cannabis policy by decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana and permitting medical cannabis statewide. And in 2017, Senate Bill 949 became law, which makes it easier for people who have been convicted of marijuana possession to clear their records.
But the state has struggled in other ways.
Just last month, the state’s body of cannabis policymakers, the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, implemented several strict regulations regarding advertisements for cannabis products and services. Ads are not allowed on billboards, radio, TV, or public property. Ads aren’t permitted in print publications either, “unless at least 85 percent of the audience is reasonably expected to be 18 years of age or older, as determined by reliable and current audience composition data.”
In essence, the commission effectively banned all advertising for anything associated with medical cannabis consumption. But as the wave of legalization continues to permeate even the most anti-pot towns and states, perhaps Maryland’s rigidity will soften, too– you know, in the name of bettering education.