A new poll from the Pew Research Center shows 91% of Americans support legalizing marijuana for either recreational or medical use.

Just 8% of Americans want cannabis to stay completely illegal.

Sentiments have definitely shifted when it comes to drug laws — especially marijuana.

New York, Virginia and New Mexico have also joined the ranks of states legalizing cannabis for recreational use. The same effort failed to gain traction in Maryland during the just completed legislative session in Annapolis.

Maryland is one of the few remaining politically blue states to have not approved a recreational legalization measure.

We know that day is coming. The polls show it, and there is plenty of money in marijuana to push Annapolis towards legalization.

The promise of increased tax revenue coupled with the increasingly deep pockets of the cannabis industry will drive more states — including Maryland — to take the legalization jump.

Not passing a legalization measure this session at least gives lawmakers some more time to craft a common sense law. That common sense approach needs to extend to making sure the financial fruits of marijuana legalization are enjoyed by Maryland growers and mom-and-pop dispensaries and not just deep-pocketed cannabis corporations backed by private equity firms and hedge funds.

This year’s push for legalization in Annapolis included a focus on helping communities hit hard by the “War on Drugs” and past crime bills.

We like that focus.We also need to dedicate legal marijuana revenue toward challenges such as drug addiction and mental health. The pandemic has resulted in a record number of opioid and fentanyl deaths in Maryland.

We need more resources invested in both those areas. We also want to see a legalization push coupled with continued criminal justice reforms. One of the challenges for police is that they are continuing to enforce drug laws — including for marijuana. Enforcement of those laws and the resulting prosecutions and prison sentences have been an incredible drain on resources — let alone their impacts on families and communities.

Progress has been made on this front but more needs to be done.

Marijuana legalization is coming to Maryland sooner or later.

The public support is there.

We just need to do it correctly, learn from the proper lessons from other states and make sure small businesses and local growers are not frozen out by big cannabis corporations increasingly dominating the industry.

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