First, the legalized sale of medical marijuana is a big business in Maryland. According to the Marijuana Policy Project 102,459 or nearly two percent of Marylanders have received a so-called “cannabis card” issued by the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission’s (MMCC) patient registry. For nearly 10 years these cards were required to legally purchase marijuana for medicinal purposes from a cannabis dispensary licensed by the state. 

On July 1, 2023, in a major, much-publicized shift in drug policy Gov. Wes Moore enacted The Cannabis Reform Bill, making Maryland the latest state to legalize adult possession of limited amounts of marijuana for recreational use. Unlike medical use cannabis, which continues to be non-taxable, recreational marijuana is subject to a nine percent tax on each dollar spent. 

The Cannabis Reform Bill was put to a vote by the citizens of Maryland. The people’s choice was clear: residents, 21 and over wanted the right to legally purchase marijuana for recreational use. The state has a significant financial interest in the sale of recreational cannabis. Last year Marylanders spent 600 million tax free dollars on medical cannabis. This represents a 54-million-dollar loss in tax revenue.  Clearly, the state hopes to recoup those funds, and more by taxing the sale of recreational marijuana.  

Second, the term “marijuana” became widely used in the United States around the same time Blacks and Mexicans were thought to be cannabis’ biggest users. The word took on a negative connotation, popularized by the media, who were anxious to mirror public sentiment and show support for the stigmatization and criminalization of cannabis.

Cannabis has been used for medicinal, spiritual and recreational purposes for thousands of years. In the U.S. cannabis was initially grown and used for industrial purposes, such as the production of fiber for clothing, paper and hemp ropes. However, attitudes about “weed” began to change in the early 20th century. Concerns about its effects on public health and safety fueled the first prohibition of cannabis. 

These laws were primarily aimed at restricting its increasing use by Mexican immigrants and African Americans, which points to a non-medical benefit of decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana deemed for personal use. It is no secret that historically young African Americans have been disproportionately caught and charged with possession of weed. A marijuana possession charge can make an individual ineligible for employment and limit career opportunities.  

The Baltimore Times has a podcast on its website that offers helpful tips on how to expunge your record if you were charged with possession of a small amount of marijuana prior to its legalization for recreational use. 

Third, although cannabis has potential health benefits, including pain relief and reducing anxiety, it can also have negative side effects, such as impaired coordination and memory, and it can be addictive for some individuals. It is important to know that cannabis can interact with various medications, potentially altering their effects. 

There are potential risks associated with long-term cannabis use. It’s essential to understand that the effects of cannabis can vary widely depending on the individual, the frequency of use, the potency of the cannabis and other factors. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offers potential dangers and concerns related to chronic, long-term use of cannabis:

4. Mental Health: Some studies suggest a link between frequent cannabis use and increased risk of psychosis or schizophrenia, especially if there’s a family history of the disorder or if used during teenage years.

5. Anxiety and Depression: While some people use cannabis as a treatment for anxiety and depression, chronic use might exacerbate these conditions for others.

6. Cognitive Impairments: Regular cannabis use, especially starting in the teenage years, may impact cognitive functions, leading to memory issues, decreased attention span and impaired learning abilities.

7. Dependency: While cannabis is often considered less addictive than substances like alcohol or opioids, regular use can lead to cannabis use disorder, characterized by cravings, increased tolerance, and withdrawal symptoms like irritability, insomnia and loss of appetite.

8. Lung Health: Smoking cannabis can lead to respiratory problems, similar to those caused by smoking tobacco, including chronic bronchitis and lung infections. There is an ongoing debate about whether smoking cannabis increases the risk of lung cancer.

9. Cardiovascular Concerns: Some reports suggest that cannabis can increase heart rate and blood pressure, which might be a concern for individuals with heart conditions.

10. Impaired Driving: Cannabis can impair motor coordination and reaction time. Driving under the influence increases the risk of accidents.

Jayne Hopson
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