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Marijuana Legalization Bill Faces Long Odds In Maryland Legislature

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The marijuana legalization bill would allow for home cultivation.
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The marijuana legalization bill would allow for home cultivation.

A bill to legalize marijuana was officially unveiled today in Annapolis.

The lawmakers sponsoring the bill in both branches of the General Assembly — Jamie Raskin of Montgomery County in the Senate and Curt Anderson of Baltimore in the House — were joined by several national groups as they begin their push for legalization.

Retired Maryland State Police Major Neil Franklin choked up many times during the press conference as he explained his support of legalizing marijuana.

"It comes from seeing too much violence," Franklin said. "Not only did I grow up in Baltimore, not only does my family live in Baltimore, and we know the violence that's in Baltimore. In 2000... I had a close friend who was working undercover for the Maryland State Police, and he was murdered during a botched drug buy. He was shot point blank in the head."

Opponents of legalization in Annapolis say they want to study what's happening in Colorado further before their minds can be changed. It's only been 15 days since the drug became legal in Colorado, and Franklin, who is now the executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, says people should be watching what's happening there.

"You've seen the lines of people in Colorado? Hundreds if not thousands right?  In one day, $1 million in gross sales. In one week, $5 million in gross sales," Franklin said. "That's $5 million that's not going to criminals, organized crime, and gangs."

Passing the measure this year seems unlikely. Senate President Mike Miller, who supports legalization, points to the fact that Gov. Martin O'Malley and House Speaker Mike Busch are against it, and that at least one of them would be needed for approval.

"You have to understand the lay of the land. Governor O'Malley is against it," Miller said. "I learned a long time ago that you need two of those three elements."

But Miller does think marijuana will be legalized within his lifetime. O'Malley will not be governor next year, and three possible Democratic successors have all shown varying degrees of support for either decriminalizing or legalizing marijuana.

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