Maryland voters to decide marijuana legalization amendment in November

By: Samuel Wonacott

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Maryland voters to decide a marijuana legalization amendment in November
  2. Calvin Smyre, longest-serving Georgia lawmaker, resigns from state House 
  3. Six governors running for re-election this year have collectively raised $190 million

Maryland voters to decide marijuana legalization amendment in November

On April 1, the Maryland General Assembly referred a constitutional amendment to the ballot that would legalize marijuana for adults 21 or older beginning in July 2023. Lawmakers also approved a bill for the use, distribution, regulation, and taxation of marijuana that would go into effect if voters approve the amendment. If voters approve the amendment, Maryland would join 18 states and Washington, D.C., in legalizing marijuana for recreational use. The amendment is the first marijuana-related measure to qualify for the 2022 ballot.

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before Maryland voters, a 60% vote is required in both chambers. The constitutional amendment was introduced as House Bill 1. The state House approved it 96-34 on Feb. 25. The Senate approved HB1, with amendments, 29-17 on April 1. The House voted 94-39 to agree to the Senate amendments. The bill does not need the governor’s signature to appear on the ballot.

On the same day, the legislature passed House Bill 837, which would take effect if voters approve HB1. HB 837 would:

  • Legalize the personal use and possession of up to 1.5 ounces or 12 grams of concentrated cannabis for individuals 21 years of age or older. 
  • Legalize the possession of up to two cannabis plants. 
  • Change the criminal penalties for persons found possessing cannabis under the age of 21. 
  • Automatically expunge convictions for conduct that would be made legal under the law. Individuals serving time for such offenses would be allowed to file for resentencing. 
  • Require specific studies on the use of cannabis, the medical cannabis industry, and the adult-use cannabis industry. 
  • Establish the Cannabis Business Assistance Fund and the Cannabis Public Health Fund.

In 2020, voters in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota approved ballot measures to legalize recreational marijuana. The New Jersey Legislature was the first in the country to refer a recreational marijuana legalization measure to the ballot. In South Dakota, the Hughes County Circuit Court ruled the measure unconstitutional on Feb. 8, 2021. The state supreme court upheld the lower court ruling.

Marijuana has been illegal in the United States since 1937, when Congress prohibited its use for recreational, industrial, and therapeutic purposes with the Marihuana Act of 1937. Under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, the drug and all its cannabinoid forms were classified as Schedule I substances. Schedule I substances are considered to have a high potential for dependency and no accepted medical use. This classification made distribution of marijuana a federal offense.

The first time a marijuana legalization measure appeared on the ballot was in California in 1972, when voters rejected Proposition 19. Between 1972 and 2020, voters in 21 states voted on 75 marijuana-related ballot measures. Not all of them were for legalization. Some were bans, some were related to medical marijuana, and some were related to taxing medical or recreational marijuana. 

In 2012, voters in Colorado and Washington became the first to legalize recreational marijuana when they did so through citizen initiatives. Vermont was the first state to legalize recreational marijuana through an act of the legislature when Gov. Phil Scott (R) signed a marijuana legalization bill into law on Jan. 22, 2018. 

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Calvin Smyre, longest-serving Georgia lawmaker, resigns from state House 

Calvin Smyre (D) resigned from the Georgia House of Representatives on April 4, 2022, after President Joe Biden (D) appointed him ambassador to the Dominican Republic. Smyre served from 1975 to 2022, most recently in District 135.

Smyre was elected to the state House in 1974, making him Georgia’s longest-serving state lawmaker. Smyre also served as executive vice president of Synovus Financial Corporation from 1976 to 2014. 

Only a handful of current state legislators in other states have served as long as Smyre. These include Texas state Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D), who assumed office in 1973,  New York state Rep. Richard Gottfried (D), who assumed office in 1971, and Texas state Rep. Tom Craddick (R), who assumed office in 1969.

Special elections must be used to fill vacancies in the General Assembly. The governor must declare a special election no later than 10 days after the vacancy happens, and the election must be held no less than 30 days and no later than 60 days after the governor calls for the election. 

Georgia is one of 25 states that fill vacancies in the state legislature through special elections. Twenty-two states fill vacancies through appointments and three states fill vacancies through a hybrid system that uses both appointments and special elections. Overall, 43 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2022 in 20 states. Between 2011 and 2021, an average of 74 special elections took place each year. 

There have been 51 state legislative vacancies in 28 states this year, with 22 of those vacancies having been filled. Democrats represented 33 of those vacant districts. Republicans represented 18. Democrats have since won eight of the vacancies and Republicans have won seven. 

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Six governors running for re-election this year have collectively raised $190 million

In partnership with Transparency USA, we published fundraising reports for 11 governors in 2021. The six running for re-election raised a combined $190 million. The five not running for re-election raised more than $2 million.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) led in fundraising with $110 million, followed by Greg Abbott (R-Texas) with $45 million, Gretchen Whitmer (D-Mich.) with $14 million, Tony Evers (D-Wisc.) with $10 million, Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) with $8 million, and Tim Walz (D-Minn.) with $2 million.

Click the links below to find out more:

This year, we plan to publish hundreds of articles breaking down campaign finance numbers in the 11 states covered by Transparency USA: Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. To learn more about our partnership with Transparency USA, click here

There are 36 gubernatorial races this year.

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