A Telling Moment for Martin O’Malley — and His Presidential Ambitions?

That the Maryland governor will sign off on a state marijuana decriminalization bill speaks volumes about his national viability.

National Journal
Lucia Graves
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Lucia Graves
April 7, 2014, 1:44 p.m.

Mary­land Gov. Mar­tin O’Mal­ley will sign a bill de­crim­in­al­iz­ing the pos­ses­sion of small amounts of marijuana as ex­pec­ted, his of­fice an­nounced late Monday. The le­gis­la­tion, which would im­pose civil fines rather than crim­in­al sanc­tions on any­one caught with less than half an ounce of the stuff, was ap­proved by the state Sen­ate in the fi­nal hours of its 90-day ses­sion.

The move comes after the gov­ernor faced con­sid­er­able pres­sure, both loc­ally and na­tion­ally, to re­form state marijuana le­gis­la­tion.

It’s a telling mo­ment for O’Mal­ley, who’s been tour­ing the coun­try and talk­ing up the pos­sib­il­ity of a 2016 pres­id­en­tial run. It also sig­nals a broad­er shift to­ward more lib­er­al marijuana policies.

Long be­fore he was elec­ted gov­ernor, O’Mal­ley be­came may­or of Bal­timore run­ning on a tough-on-crime plat­form. But in the past year, he has shif­ted away from that im­age, craft­ing one bill that es­tab­lished the state’s med­ic­al-marijuana pro­gram (al­beit a flawed one) and an­oth­er giv­ing law en­force­ment dis­cre­tion as to wheth­er to ar­rest someone for marijuana pos­ses­sion or simply is­sue a cita­tion.

In a state­ment re­leased around 5 p.m. Monday, O’Mal­ley ac­know­ledged his evol­u­tion. His full re­marks, which down­play the move — mak­ing the le­gis­la­tion sound like a mere form­al­ity — are be­low.

With more ef­fect­ive poli­cing and more widely avail­able drug treat­ment, to­geth­er in Mary­land, we have driv­en vi­ol­ent crime down to its low­est levels in 30 years. This pro­gress has been hard-won and much re­mains to be done. Re­cent spikes in hom­icides and heroin over­dose deaths un­der­score the life-sav­ing ur­gency of the work be­fore us.

The Gen­er­al As­sembly has de­cided after much con­sid­er­a­tion — and with clear ma­jor­it­ies in both Cham­bers — to send to my desk a bill that would de­crim­in­al­ize the pos­ses­sion of small amounts of marijuana, and I plan to sign it.

As a mat­ter of ju­di­cial eco­nomy and pro­sec­utori­al dis­cre­tion, few if any de­fend­ants go to pris­on for a first or even a second of­fense of marijuana pos­ses­sion in Mary­land. De­su­et­ude is of­ten a pre­curs­or of re­form.

As a young pro­sec­utor, I once thought that de­crim­in­al­iz­ing the pos­ses­sion of marijuana might un­der­mine the Pub­lic Will ne­ces­sary to com­bat drug vi­ol­ence and im­prove pub­lic safety. I now think that de­crim­in­al­iz­ing pos­ses­sion of marijuana is an ac­know­ledge­ment of the low pri­or­ity that our courts, our pro­sec­utors, our po­lice, and the vast ma­jor­ity of cit­izens already at­tach to this trans­gres­sion of pub­lic or­der and pub­lic health. Such an ac­know­ledg­ment in law might even lead to a great­er fo­cus on far more ser­i­ous threats to pub­lic safety and the lives of our cit­izens.

What We're Following See More »
BUT IS HE A YES VOTE?
Cornyn Attempting to Get McCain Back for Health Vote
1 hours ago
THE LATEST
“TIME HAD RUN OUT” FOR ILL BABY
Charlie Gard’s Parents End Legal Fight
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

"A lawyer representing Chris Gard and Connie Yates told the High Court 'time had run out' for the baby. Mr. Gard said it meant his 'sweet, gorgeous, innocent little boy' will not reach his first birthday on 4 August. 'To let our beautiful little Charlie go' is 'the hardest thing we'll ever have to do,' his mother said. Charlie's parents said they made the decision because a US doctor had told them it was now too late to give Charlie nucleoside therapy.

Source:
AGENCY SOUGHT TO DELAY IMPLEMENTATION
11 States Sue EPA Over Chemical Rule
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Eleven states have sued the Environmental Protection Agency over its June decision to delay implementation of a chemical safety rule" until 2019. "The state attorneys general, led by New York’s Eric Schneiderman (D), argue the rule is important for 'protecting our workers, first-responders and communities from chemical accidents' and should be allowed to take affect as planned by the Obama administration’s EPA.

Source:
ULTIMATUM ON ACA
Trump: You’re With Us Or Against Us
2 hours ago
THE LATEST
$1.6 BILLION SET ASIDE FOR WALL
House Freedom Caucus Chair: Shutdown Over Wall Funding Unlikely
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) on Monday said that funding for President Trump's controversial border wall is unlikely to cause a government shutdown. 'The odds of a government shutdown are very minimal when it comes to that,' the conservative lawmaker said at an event in Washington, D.C. 'I do think the funding of the border wall will happen,' he added. Appropriators have set aside $1.6 billion to fund new wall and fencing sections on parts of the U.S.-Mexico border covering a few dozen miles."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login