Maryland voters to decide whether to legalize marijuana

In November, Maryland voters will decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana. 

If it's approved, Maryland will follow in the footsteps of D.C. and Virginia, and lawmakers could look into taxing and regulating recreational marijuana in the state. 

Maryland is a bit late to the game on this. D.C. passed similar legislation back in 2014. Virginia approved legalizing recreational marijuana in 2021. 

Marijuana Justice Executive Director Chelsea Higgs Wise tells FOX 5 the push to legalize the herb needs to be dealt with under the context of racial equity. 

"Black residents in Maryland are still two times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than their white counterparts," Higgs Wise said. "Maryland medical industry of marijuana continues to struggle with Black and Latino participation. We have seen that the last year's polls indicate that the support has maybe even been diminishing about residents wanting to have this regulated in their state. And this very well may be because the ‘little guy,' as well as these racial justice components, are not yet guaranteed…" 

RELATED: Bill introduced to help implement legalization of marijuana in Maryland

According to a study by the ACLU, between 2010 and 2018 Maryland was home to three of the top 10 counties with the highest rates of marijuana possession arrests in the country. 

If the ballot referendum passes, those who were arrested for possessing the drug could have their record expunged. 

The companion bill would legalize possession of up to 1.5 ounces. It also would remove criminal penalties of up to 2.5 ounces and create a civil citation. Existing laws on marijuana possession would apply to possession of more than 2.5 ounces.

Maryland also plans to study the impact of marijuana on public health and disparities.