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As 90-day session opens, O’Malley opposes allowing recreational marijuana in Maryland

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark, File)

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley voiced strong opposition Wednesday to legalizing marijuana for recreational use, saying that it could be “a gateway to even more harmful behavior.”

“I’m not much in favor of it,” O’Malley said during an annual“Annapolis Summit” radio show broadcast on the first day of Maryland’s legislative session.

“I’ve seen what drug addiction has done to the people of our state and the people of our city,” O’Malley, who rose to political prominence as a tough-on-crime mayor of Baltimore, told host Marc Steiner of WEAA 88.9 FM.

Interest in legalizing marijuana has increased with the start of sales in Colorado and a series of national polls showing a majority of Americans now favor it. Lawmakers in both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly plan to introduce bills this session.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said in an interview with The Washington Post last week that he thinks support for the concept will continue to grow but that it is unlikely that a bill would pass this year.

Miller offer a similar assessment during a separate segment on Steiner’s show Wednesday after O’Malley’s appearance.

“It’s eventually going to happen,” Miller said.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), who appeared with Miller, voiced reservations about allowing recreational marijuana use but said he is open to legislation that would impose only civil fines and drug treatment on people caught with small amounts as an alternative to incarceration.

“I think there’s a good argument for that, or at least a viable argument for that,” Busch said in an interview after the radio broadcast.

Last year, the Senate passed a bill that would have subjected those caught with small amounts of marijuana to only a civil fine of up to $100. That measure died in the House.

O’Malley spokeswoman Nina Smith declined to say whether the governor would support a similar “decriminalization” bill this year. She said O’Malley would look at any bill that the legislature produces.

O’Malley told Steiner that he is willing to support legislation this year that addresses shortcomings in a medical marijuana bill that he signed last year.

That legislation limited distribution to a small number of qualified academic medical centers. That program has run into complications and has yet to launch.

John Wagner is a political reporter covering the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

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