By Ryan Wu
For The Diamondback
It's a gubernatorial election year in Maryland and issues like education funding and transportation are sure to be debated by the candidates. But one issue that could also influence voters is recreational marijuana legalization.
Gov. Larry Hogan, the Republican incumbent, opposes recreational marijuana legalization, opting to support the medical marijuana industry, which was legalized in Maryland in 2013 and has been operational since December.
Several of Hogan's Democratic challengers, including former NAACP President Ben Jealous, tech entrepreneur Alec Ross, attorney Jim Shea, former policy director for Michelle Obama, Krish Vignarajah, and state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery), all support legalization of recreational marijuana.
Two Democratic gubernatorial candidates, Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker and Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, have not publicly expressed support for marijuana legalization, although Baker supports marijuana decriminalization. The state decriminalized marijuana possession of up to 10 grams in 2014.
With just over two months to go before the June 26 Democratic primary, students at the University of Maryland have shared their thoughts on marijuana legalization. Here is what they have to say.
Legalization of recreational marijuana could be a significant benefit for the state, said freshman computer science major Tanachot Ronnie Trachoo.
A report by the Marijuana Business Factbook estimates that the total economic impact in the U.S. of legal marijuana sales could reach $70 billion annually by 2021.
Trachoo said legalization will be one of the factors he considers when choosing candidates.
"It depends on what other issues [the candidate] supports as well, but I feel like that's definitely something I would look for," Trachoo said.
A constitutional amendment to legalize the possession, use and growing of marijuana was introduced by state Sen. Will Smith (D-Montgomery) during this legislative session, but the amendment failed to be voted on by the crossover deadline in the Senate.
Jeffrey Najmi, a sophomore computer science major, largely supports legalization but suggested setting a minimum age of 21 for buying marijuana once it is legalized, the same age a person can legally purchase alcohol. "If the legal age [for using marijuana] is less than 21, I think people may abuse it more, but I'm all for it," Najmi said.
Deanna Stephen, a junior English major, said a candidate's position on drug legalization won't be "too huge of a factor" in affecting her decision on who she votes for, and said she is interested in activism and reducing partisan politics by campaigning for students to register to vote.
Although many students said they supported legalization, Augustin Fragale, a junior finance and individual studies major, offered more creative policy changes relating to marijuana.
"I'm definitely in favor of legalization," said Fragale who praised drug policies enacted in Portugal which decriminalized the possession and use of small amounts of all drugs in 2001 and used funds that had been used to incarcerate drug users to subsidize jobs for former addicts, a strategy he said might work in this country.
Amir Stoudamire, a senior psychology major, supports legalization and argued that alcohol has been legal in this country for decades, despite it being attributed to dangerous behaviors like drunk driving.
"It's kind of hypocritical to allow alcohol but not marijuana," Stoudamire said, adding he's more concerned about issues like taxation and education than legalization when considering who to vote for governor.
"Either make them both legal or make them both illegal," Stoudamire said.