Maryland gubernatorial candidates state their views on marijuana

All of the candidates for Maryland governor were given a short questionnaire asking for their views about decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana, how their views of the drug have changed over the years and whether they had tried the drug. Here are their replies:

Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D)

Question 1: Do you support or oppose the use of medical marijuana?

I support the use of marijuana as prescribed by a licensed medical professional for the treatment of a diagnosed medical condition.

Question 2: What is your view of legislative efforts this year that would make the medical marijuana law more workable and broaden access to medical marijuana?

I am proud of the work that we did last year to become the 19th state to create a framework for medical marijuana. However, through the process of implementing that program, we have learned that the 2013 legislation did not provide the type of access to medicinal marijuana that many had hoped. We know that there is considerable support in the General Assembly this session to identify reasonable modifications to the law that will help more Marylanders access medical marijuana.

Question 3: Do you support or oppose decriminalizing marijuana? Why?

I support the decriminalization of possession of nominal amounts of marijuana because: (1) marijuana arrests and prosecutions disproportionately affect our minority community, though use among whites and people of color is comparable; (2) a criminal conviction for minor possession should not impair an individual’s ability to secure employment or a home; and (3) the state spends millions of dollars arresting and prosecuting minor marijuana possession. Decriminalization will allow our police to focus on combating violent crime.

My support of marijuana decriminalization is not endorsement of its use. As governor, I will support continued education on the dangers of substance use for children both in school and at home. We will also help all people struggling with substance abuse to access the services they need to get healthy.

Question 4: Do you support or oppose legalizing marijuana? Why?

No. I do not support the legalization of marijuana. As governor, I will take a measured approach to marijuana reform. The states of Colorado and Washington will provide an example of the challenges and pitfalls to marijuana legalization. We will learn from their experiences and assess whether additional changes to Maryland’s law are warranted beyond decriminalization.

Question 5: Have your views on marijuana changed over the years? Can you describe what you were taught about marijuana when you were growing up? What do you think now?

Yes. Like many things, my views on marijuana have evolved over the years. As a child, I was taught in school that marijuana was an evil substance that would ruin lives. Through the years, I have formulated my own opinions about marijuana, based upon the people I have met, the stories they have shared and the research I have read.

Today, I recognize the health dangers of marijuana, which are, in many regards, comparable to alcohol and tobacco.

I am troubled by the number of young adults and people of color who have permanent criminal records as a result of a minor marijuana possession conviction, which prevents them from gainful employment and decent housing.

Since my time as a member of the General Assembly, I have supported marijuana policy reform because I believe non-violent people struggling with substance abuse issues need treatment, not punishment. As a delegate, I supported legislation that reduced penalties for non-violent offenders charged with minor drug possession. Last year, I was proud of the progress we made as a state in passing the medical marijuana bill and look forward to a vigorous debate to improve the law this session. As governor, I will take the next step to decriminalize possession of nominal amounts of marijuana.

Question 6: Have you ever tried marijuana?

Yes, I experimented as a teenager.

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Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler (D)

Question 1: Do you support or oppose the use of medical marijuana?

The state legislature passed a law allowing the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. While that law has serious flaws, with the proper controls to prevent abuse, I support letting Maryland consumers use marijuana for medical purposes, provided it is prescribed by a doctor affiliated with an accredited hospital or university.

Question 2: What is your view of legislative efforts this year that would make the medical marijuana law more workable and broaden access to medical marijuana?

I support efforts to improve the existing law, which has serious flaws. If a doctor affiliated with an accredited hospital or university thinks it is appropriate to prescribe marijuana for a patient, he or she should be able to do so.

Question 3: Do you support or oppose decriminalizing marijuana? Why?

I support working with law enforcement to decriminalize possession of marijuana in small amounts. Any discussion of complete legalization should include Maryland’s health professionals, law enforcement and community organizations, and be based on what is best for the health and security of families and children, not a rush to tax a new source of income to address budget pressures.

Question 4: Do you support or oppose legalizing marijuana? Why?

I support working with law enforcement to decriminalize possession of marijuana in small amounts. Any discussion of complete legalization should include Maryland’s health professionals, law enforcement and community organizations, and be based on what is best for the health and security of families and children, not a rush to tax a new source of income to address budget pressures.

Question 5: Have your views on marijuana changed over the years? Can you describe what you were taught about marijuana when you were growing up? What do you think now?

My views have not changed. Having been in law enforcement for these past 20-plus years, I am very familiar with people who both sell and use marijuana and all other illegal drugs, and I recognize the difference between marijuana and other illegal drugs.

Question 6: Have you ever tried marijuana?

Yes, when I was a teenager.

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Del. Ronald A. George (R-Anne Arundel)

Question 1: Do you support or oppose the use of medical marijuana?

I support the limited, controlled use of medical marijuana. I voted for the bill last year.

Question 2: What is your view of legislative efforts this year that would make the medical marijuana law more workable and broaden access to medical marijuana?

We have some corrections to do to the bill this year, and I anticipate supporting the result. I am encouraged by promising research into treatment of seizures in children with marijuana that contains high amounts of cannabidiol and low amounts of THC, providing medical relief without psychoactivity.

Question 3: Do you support or oppose decriminalizing marijuana? Why?

I do not believe the full legalization of marijuana is a wise course. However, I am open to policies that redirect non-violent offenders away from the courts and prisons.

Question 4: Do you support or oppose legalizing marijuana? Why?

I do not believe the full legalization of marijuana is a wise course. However, I am open to policies that redirect nonviolent offenders away from the courts and prisons.

Question 5: Have your views on marijuana changed over the years? Can you describe what you were taught about marijuana when you were growing up? What do you think now?

No response

Question 6: Have you ever tried marijuana?

No response

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Harford County Executive David Craig (R)

Question 1: Do you support or oppose the use of medical marijuana?

I oppose it.

Question 2: What is your view of legislative efforts this year that would make the medical m arijuana law more workable and broaden access to medical marijuana?

If there is a chemical in marijuana that provides medicinal value, it should be extracted from the plant and made available as a pharmaceutical and regulated by the FDA.

Question 3: Do you support or oppose decriminalizing marijuana? Why?

In many cases, it is more appropriate for offenders to pay a fine than receive prison time. I oppose mandatory minimum sentences and support allowing judges discretion to ensure that punishment fits the crime.

Question 4: Do you support or oppose legalizing marijuana? Why?

I oppose it. While the drugstore CVS is banning tobacco products, we as a society are now supposed to embrace marijuana as somehow safer? Do you want your doctor or dentist under the influence of marijuana because it’s now legal? How about truck drivers? It does not make any sense to make tobacco more illegal and marijuana more legal at the same time.

Question 5: Have your views on marijuana changed over the years? Can you describe what you were taught about marijuana when you were growing up? What do you think now?

My views on this have not changed over the years. When I was growing up in Harford County, there was nothing taught about marijuana because it hardly existed. What I think now is that we’re getting ahead of ourselves by attempting to legalize this and not thinking through the consequences.

Question 6: Have you ever tried marijuana?

No, nor have I tried cigarettes.

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Charles County businessman Charles Lollar (R)

Question 1: Do you support or oppose the use of medical marijuana?

I support the use of medical marijuana by board-certified, licensed doctors within strict legal guidelines set forth by legislation approved by the General Assembly. I want to provide Maryland citizens who suffer from certain medical illnesses and conditions the opportunity to use medical marijuana to improve their quality of life for those patients where studies have identified the use of marijuana as an appropriate medical solution.

Question 2: What is your view of legislative efforts this year that would make the medical marijuana law more workable and broaden access to medical marijuana?

As governor, I would work with our legislature to support such efforts as long as there are very specific regulations in place to ensure that all sides of the debate are given a fair and open hearing and doctors and medical experts are fully engaged in the discussion from the very beginning.

Question 3: Do you support or oppose decriminalizing marijuana? Why?

I do not support decriminalizing marijuana with the exception of the use of medical marijuana under the supervision of board-certified, licensed doctors within strict legal guidelines set forth by legislation approved by the General Assembly.

Question 4: Do you support or oppose legalizing marijuana? Why?

I oppose the legalization of marijuana. For one thing, Maryland should not be solving its fiscal problems by finding something else to tax, such as marijuana, especially with so many unknowns. What concerns me are studies that have shown the increased potency of today’s marijuana and potential for long-term addiction and mental impairment and, as such, I believe it can be a gateway drug that opens the door to much more lethal drugs and further addictions.

Question 5: Have your views on marijuana changed over the years? Can you describe what you were taught about marijuana when you were growing up? What do you think now?

Over the years I have engaged in the discussion of the potential medical hope this drug can provide those people suffering from specific illnesses. During my administration, I am open to continuing further discussions about marijuana beyond that, but feel as governor of Maryland, it is important to carefully evaluate the impact on those states that have already legalized its use more broadly and examine the greater impact its legalization is having on our society as a whole.

Question 6: Have you ever tried marijuana?

No.

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Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery)

Question 1: Do you support or oppose the use of medical marijuana?

Support.

Question 2: What is your view of legislative efforts this year that would make the medical marijuana law more workable and broaden access to medical marijuana?

I absolutely support efforts to ensure that the therapeutic benefits of medical marijuana are available to and will make a real-world difference in the lives of patients who need it.

Question 3: Do you support or oppose decriminalizing marijuana? Why?

I’m a co-sponsor of legislation in this session for legalization. But I’ve also introduced legislation to decriminalize. That bill had about 40 co-sponsors on it. . . . It would allow for possession of up to an ounce and to only have a civil fine of $100. If you’re below age 18 [there would be] parental notification, and if you’re below age 21 you’d have to go to an education course.

Question 4: Do you support or oppose legalizing marijuana? Why?

In the campaign I’ve made it very clear we’re promoting legalization. And we have a plan to tax and regulate marijuana. It would generate $157 million a year in revenue, and we would dedicate the revenue toward paying for universal pre-K. So that’s part of our campaign plan. . . .

For me it’s probably going to take an election and a mandate from voters for the Mizeur-Coates administration to come in and get legalization done, but we can walk out of here this session with an important reform in place allowing for the decriminalization of marijuana. . . .

The prohibition laws have ruined people’s lives. We see that they’re enforced with racial bias. African Americans and whites use at the same rate, but African Americans are three times more likely to go to jail. And it’s costly — $280 million is spent in our criminal justice system just on detention, court and other costs associated with the marijuana prohibition laws. . . .

We know, for adults, that the science shows this substance is no more harmful, and arguably less so, than alcohol and tobacco in terms of its toxicity, in terms of its addictive properties. And so adults should be able to have the right to have access to it in the privacy of their own homes, and we should regulate and tax it in the same way.

Question 5: Have your views on marijuana changed over the years? Can you describe what you were taught about marijuana when you were growing up? What do you think now?

I grew up with a very negative opinion about the substance and I had never tried it well into my adult life. A friend of mine had cancer and was using marijuana as a treatment method, and [she] had a very detailed conversation with me about what this plant medicine meant to her, and her treatment, and encouraged me not to have such a negative view and felt like if I tried it with her I would at least have a better understanding. So, you know, I did. But it wasn’t for me.

Question 6: Have you ever tried marijuana?

See question No. 5.

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Larry Hogan, a GOP candidate for governor who is head of Change Maryland, declined to respond.

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