It seems that sparks fly and countless news headlines appear each time the marijuana debate hits the floors of the state legislature. This past week was no different, as a spirited discussion drew unprecedented crowds, which spilled into the hallways of the Maryland State House. The issue of changing the state’s archaic and costly pot laws has been the same for the past couple of years, but new and unpredictable drama arises each time this topic is up for discussion. On Tuesday in Annapolis, state lawmakers were joined by cops, college students, parents, and professionals, and each had strong opinions on the subject. Some of these opinions were based on personal experience, such as the parent who testified that her son’s career opportunities had been damaged by a prior arrest possession of about ten grams of marijuana. There was also a college student who described the embarrassing and degrading experience of being arrested, strip searched, and jailed for pot possession.
Lawmakers also voiced their opinions, which in some cases were supported by irrefutable facts. Delegate Morhaim, a physician and strong proponent of modifying the state’s medical marijuana law, explained that in the history of medicine there has not been one documented case of a death caused by a marijuana overdose. The same cannot be said for alcohol, which is undeniably our country’s favorite, and most deadly drug. Other politicians talked about the changing sentiment around the country, and cited a recent Gallop poll that concluded the majority of Americans now support pot legalization. Lawmakers also focused on the financial implications of legalizing versus prosecuting marijuana. The state spends about 100 million dollars each year prosecuting marijuana possession cases, whereas legalizing and taxing it would bring annual revenue of up the 150 million dollars per year; that’s a quarter of a billion dollar swing for a state that could use every penny.
Perhaps the most dramatic headlines of Tuesday’s debate came from the anti legalization camp, who always seem to entertain with their rhetoric and misinformation. The award for most misinformed clearly goes to Annapolis Police Chief Michael Pristoop, who in support for his stance against legalization cited an article from a website that had claimed 37 people died of marijuana overdoses on the first day it was legalized in Colorado. The problem with the chief’s testimony was that the article was a complete hoax, which had been floating around the internet for several weeks. After the initial reaction of laughing at this officer’s ignorance subsides, a real feeling of disgust begins to take over. Some people are so jaded by their irrational and uninformed opinions of marijuana that they lose all ability to engage in a logical discussion. This particular cop clearly knows nothing about the real risks and benefits of marijuana, yet he was willing to confidently stand up and testify in front of elected officials and members of the media on the subject. Pristoop later apologized for the gaffe, but maintained his position by stating that his ignorance should not take away from the other arguments presented in opposition to legalization, and the “good work” of Maryland law enforcement. If this so called “good work” is wasting 100 million taxpayer dollars and strip searching and jailing college students for having a bag of pot, then it’s safe to say we don’t want their good work in our state anymore.
Benjamin Herbst is a marijuana lawyer, who handles all types of drug and other criminal cases. Contact Benjamin for a free consultation about your case.