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
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 »
PENTAGON WILL DRAFT LEGISLATION FOR CONGRESS
Trump Directs DoD to Launch Space Force
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

"President Donald Trump signed a directive on Tuesday that ordered the Department of Defense create a Space Force as a sixth military branch. Known as Space Policy Directive 4 (SPD-4), the directive orders the Pentagon draft legislation for Congress that would create the Space Force as a part of the U.S. Air Force. This would establish the first military branch in 72 years. The Air Force is the nation's youngest branch and was added shortly after World War II."

Source:
MATTHEW WHITAKER, THEN AG, REFUSED
Trump Tried to Put Ally in Charge of Investigation Targeting Him
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"As federal prosecutors in Manhattan gathered evidence late last year about President Trump’s role in silencing women with hush payments during the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump called Matthew G. Whitaker, his newly installed attorney general, with a question. He asked whether Geoffrey S. Berman, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York and a Trump ally, could be put in charge of the widening investigation, according to several American officials with direct knowledge of the call."

Source:
PER HOUSE DEMOCRATS' REPORT
Trump Appointees Promoted Saudi Arabia Nuclear Sales Despite NSC Objections
8 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"Several current and former Trump administration appointees promoted sales of nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia despite repeated objections from members of the National Security Council and other senior White House officials, according to a new report from congressional Democrats. The officials who objected included White House lawyers and H.R. McMaster, then the chief of the National Security Council. They called for a halt in the nuclear sales discussions in 2017, citing potential conflicts of interest, national security risks and legal hurdles."

Source:
FOLLOWING LONG'S SUDDEN RESIGNATION
Trump Will Nominate Jeffrey Byard to Lead FEMA
10 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"President Donald Trump announced Friday night that he would nominate Jeffrey Byard to head the Federal Emergency Management Agency, after FEMA head Brock Long abruptly resigned earlier this week. Currently FEMA's associate Administrator for Response and Recovery, Byard is the agency's "senior-most executive over disaster response, recovery, logistics, and field operations," according to a White House statement. Before joining FEMA in September 2017, he served in multiple positions in the Alabama Emergency Management Agency, including as executive operations officer."

Source:
ON VERMONT RADIO
Bernie Sanders Declares Bid
12 hours ago
THE DETAILS
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