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Marijuana, abortion are among Democratic priorities for 90-day legislative session

Maryland Legislature
Brian Witte/AP
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ap
Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson talks about the state's upcoming legislative session during an interview on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023 in Annapolis, Md. The Maryland General Assembly's annual 90-day session begins on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Brian Witte)

When the Maryland General Assembly convenes Wednesday, Democratic leaders plan to protect abortion rights and set up the state’s new recreational marijuana industry.

State Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne Jones described those and other priorities on WYPR’s Midday Tuesday.

After voters legalized recreational marijuana use in November, lawmakers have to create the infrastructure for the new industry.

Ferguson divided the task into three key parts.

First, the legislature needs to create a regulatory framework, including creating licenses for businesses that want to participate in the marketplace, in time for the market to launch July 1.

Cannabis4.jpg
Scott Maucione
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Columbia-based cannabis business Remedy Maryland is already expanding its retail footprint to three locations.

Delaying the launch of the new legal market increases the risks that the illegal market continues to thrive, Ferguson said.

The second piece is taxes.

“We have to figure out what to tax and how to tax it and then where the dollars go,” Ferguson said. “Where the dollars go is incredibly, incredibly important, because we need to make sure that it's flowing into communities who have been suffering the most over the last 50 years of the failed War on Drugs.”

And finally, lawmakers need to create a system that allows people to expunge marijuana-related crimes from their records.

Meanwhile, House Speaker Adrienne Jones said she has high hopes for her effort to protect abortion rights in the state constitution.

The bill failed last year, but she said having a new Democratic governor improves its prospects.

Maryland Legislature
Brian Witte/AP
/
ap
Maryland House Speaker Adrienne Jones talks about the state's upcoming legislative session during an interview on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023 in Annapolis, Md. Maryland lawmakers will be taking up measures relating to abortion rights, guns and the licensing and taxing of recreational marijuana in their 90-day session. (AP Photo/Brian Witte)

Rachel Baye is a reporter for WYPR's newsroom. @RachelBaye
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