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January 22, 2014 Dear Colleague

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Together, we can address the failed war on drugs Support the Maryland Marijuana Decriminalization Act

Currently, our state is one of the leading generals in our country's failed war on drugs. Maryland arrests roughly 23,000 people each year for marijuana possession, giving it the third highest arrest rate per capita of all 50 states. For just the nonviolent crime of possessing a substance less toxic and addictive than alcohol or tobacco, individuals convicted of marijuana possession can go away for up to a year in Maryland. This session, we have an opportunity to change policies that have ruined lives, made our communities less safe and wasted valuable law enforcement resources. I invite you to cosponsor the Marijuana Decriminalization Act, a bill that would decriminalize possession of an ounce or less of marijuana while requiring drug education classes for individuals under 21. Seventeen states have decriminalized the possession of small quantities of marijuana, but Maryland is not one of them. Maryland is one of the strictest states in the country when it comes to marijuana possession — not simply because of the law on its books but also because of the way the Free State chooses to enforce it. It would be one thing if our marijuana enforcement was merely misguided; it's entirely more appalling that it's blatantly disproportionate along racial lines. Despite even usage rates between whites and blacks, our state's African-Americans are three times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than their white peers. This should not be a tough policy call. Reforming marijuana laws is far from outside the mainstream views of leaders across the country; and here in Maryland, a recent Goucher poll reported just 6 percent of Marylanders favored jail time as a consequence for marijuana possession. Delegate Michael Smigiel and I are introducing the Marijuana Decriminalization Act, legislation that would replace criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana with a civil fine of $100. For individuals under 21, criminal penalties would be replaced with drug education classes and would also include parental notification requirements for those under 18. No matter what your position is on the larger question of marijuana legalization, we can come together this session to end the injustices inherent in prohibition laws right now. I invite you to join me as a co-sponsor of the Marijuana Decriminalization Act. Please do not hesitate to contact me or Moira Moynihan (ext. 3493) in my office or Andi Morony in Delegate Smigiel’s office (ext. 3555) if you have any further questions or would like to co-sponsor this legislation. All the best, Heather R. Mizeur