UPPER MARLBORO, Md. — A Maryland lawmaker who is running for governor proposed Tuesday to legalize marijuana in the state to help pay to expand prekindergarten.
Del. Heather Mizeur, a Democrat, said legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana in a way similar to how the state regulates alcohol would provide the state with increased revenue and enhance public safety by allowing law enforcement to focus greater attention on more serious crime. She estimated taxing marijuana sales would generate $157.5 million annually for early childhood education.
“Our plan will help ensure that prekindergarten is available to all children in our state,” said Mizeur, who represents Montgomery County.
Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, who also is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, did not rule out considering proposals to decriminalize marijuana as a way of helping law enforcement officials focus on violent crime.
“If by legalizing marijuana it gives the men and women in law enforcement more resources to focus their efforts on reducing violence in our communities, then it’s something that we got to look at,” Brown said after reading a story to a prekindergarten class at Kettering Elementary School in Upper Marlboro.
Brown has proposed making prekindergarten available for all Maryland 4-year-old children by 2018.
Attorney General Doug Gansler, who also is seeking the Democratic nomination, said he opposes legalizing marijuana in the state.
“The attorney general recognizes that public sentiment is slowly shifting toward limited, prescribed medicinal use of marijuana and, in some states, even toward decriminalization of marijuana,” said Bob Wheelock, Gansler’s campaign spokesman. “There does not appear to be a groundswell toward full-scale legalization here in Maryland nor does the attorney general feel that unrestrained legalization would be appropriate.”
Republican gubernatorial hopeful David Craig opposes legalizing marijuana, said his campaign spokesman, Jim Pettit. Craig, who is now the Harford County executive, also opposes expanding prekindergarten.
“It’s a question of focus, and the focus for David Craig is on K-12 education first,” Pettit said.
Craig also called for the state to withdraw from the Common Core national test, citing a lack of clarity over how much the new system will cost and concerns about test questions.
Del. Ron George, R-Anne Arundel, said that while he supported medical marijuana legislation that passed this year in Maryland, he opposes broad legalization out of concern young people would have easy access to marijuana. He also questioned whether it would generate the kind of money Mizeur estimated, because people could begin growing their own.
“I just don’t think you’d be able to control it, so I’m not for the version that she has spoken of,” George said, noting he isn’t necessarily opposed to the concept of allowing adults to use marijuana.
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