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Md. Republican senator Allan Kittleman says he will co-sponsor bill to legalize marijuana

Sen. Allan H. Kittleman (R-Howard) said Friday that he will co-sponsor legislation that would allow regulated marijuana sales in Maryland, adding a bipartisan wrinkle to this year’s push in Annapolis.

Kittleman, a Republican who is running for Howard County executive this year, said that he has agreed to work with Sen. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Montgomery) on a bill that will be unveiled next week that legislative leaders say faces long odds.

Raskin’s legislation would allow sales under a similar framework that recently was set up in Colorado, with marijuana subject to state regulation and taxation. Sales would be limited to people age 21 and over, and there would be tough penalties for selling to minors.

While he has compiled a conservative record on fiscal issues in Annapolis, Kittleman supported two other high-profile liberal social policies in recent years: the legalization of same-sex marriage and the repeal of the death penalty.

“One thing most people know about me is I’m a civil libertarian,” Kittleman said. “This isn’t something I’m doing for politics. The current way we’re dealing with marijuana and the use of it by our citizens isn’t working.”

Kittleman said that young people have told him they have an easier time getting access to marijuana than beer. State-regulated sales of marijuana could change that, he said.

“I’ve always had a feeling this is the proper way to move forward,” Kittleman said.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calavert) has voiced support for legalizing and taxing marijuana but said he doesn’t believe a bill will pass this year. Both House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) and Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) have expressed strong reservations about the idea.

Kittleman is likely to face Howard County Council member Courtney Watson (D) in the fall election for county executive.

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

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