Maryland, Where Marijuana Could Help Decide a Democratic Primary

And nobody’s in favor of the status quo.

In this Dec. 5, 2013, photo, Tyler, no last name given, inspects plants as they mature at the Medicine Man dispensary and grow operation in northeast Denver. As Colorado prepares to be the first in the nation to allow recreational pot sales, opening Jan. 1, hopeful retailers are investing their fortunes into the legal recreational pot world _ all for a chance to 
Lucia Graves
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Lucia Graves
Feb. 20, 2014, 12:05 p.m.

This week, Mary­land gubernat­ori­al can­did­ate Doug Gansler did something that’s go­ing to sound fa­mil­i­ar: He com­pared the shift in pub­lic opin­ion on marijuana leg­al­iz­a­tion to the shift in opin­ion on gay mar­riage.

“The col­lect­ive body of in­tel­li­gence was that this is wrong to do this, we’re not do­ing this right; let’s not deny people their fun­da­ment­al right to hap­pi­ness,” said Gansler of Amer­ica’s quickly evolving stance on mar­riage equal­ity. “I think a sim­il­ar kind of trend is hap­pen­ing with marijuana.”

What’s less fa­mil­i­ar? The sen­ti­ment is com­ing from the state’s top law en­force­ment of­fi­cial.

Speak­ing at The Bal­timore Sun‘s News­maker For­um, Gansler, Mary­land’s sit­ting at­tor­ney gen­er­al, pro­ceeded to make the case that marijuana re­form is more-or-less in­ev­it­able. “Will we end up get­ting to leg­al­iz­a­tion? I think we will. My view is, though, it ought to be done very in­cre­ment­ally and in lock­step and make sure we do it the right way. Be­cause once you go too far you can’t go back.”

The back­drop is a primary cam­paign in which one of Gansler’s op­pon­ents, dark-horse can­did­ate Heath­er Mizeur, a state del­eg­ate, has backed full leg­al­iz­a­tion. And an­oth­er can­did­ate, Lt. Gov. An­thony Brown, has joined her in push­ing for a state de­crim­in­al­iz­a­tion meas­ure that would re­duce pen­al­ties for car­ry­ing an ounce of weed to a $100 fine and no jail time. (Un­der cur­rent law, people caught with un­der 10 grams of the stuff can be fined up to $500 and giv­en 90 days in jail.) Mizeur has said Brown’s stance, while wel­come, doesn’t go far enough.

Not one to be left be­hind, Gansler now says he too be­lieves in de­crim­in­al­iz­a­tion for small amounts of marijuana, as well as leg­al­iz­a­tion of med­ic­al marijuana, though he balked at full leg­al­iz­a­tion. The sig­ni­fic­ance isn’t lost on pot ad­vocacy groups.

“I think the fact that all three can­did­ates seek­ing the Demo­crat­ic nom­in­a­tion have found it be­ne­fi­cial to tout their marijuana-re­form cre­den­tials speaks volumes about how far the dis­cus­sion on this is­sue has come in just a few short years,” said pro-leg­al­iz­a­tion group Marijuana Ma­jor­ity’s Tom An­gell. “Just a couple elec­tion cycles ago, we’d con­sider ourselves lucky to get one can­did­ate in a race who was will­ing to pub­licly say that maybe we should take an­oth­er look at the marijuana laws, and those com­ments would of­ten come from those who some might call ‘fringe can­did­ates.’”

Watch Gansler’s full in­ter­view with The Bal­timore Sun (the bit about marijuana comes just after the 24-minute mark):

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