Maryland Governor Cites Heroin as Reason for Vetoing Cannabis Reform Bill


Maryland Governor Larry Hogan

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Governor Larry Hogan (R-MD) vetoed three bills on Friday that contained major criminal justice reforms, including one which reduced penalties related to cannabis use.

SB 517 contained legislation to reduce marijuana paraphernalia penalties to a civil offense. The governor also vetoed two other bills: SB 528, which would have limited asset forfeiture seized by police, and HB 980, which would have restored the right to vote to felons who have been released from prison.

Hogan explained in a letter to legislators that his decision to veto the bills was based on requests from Maryland police unions, including the Maryland Sheriffs’ Association and the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association. Both organizations have campaigned against legislative reforms to asset forfeiture and cannabis possession penalties.

The actual explanation given by Hogan for his veto of the cannabis reform bill bafflingly referenced heroin addiction as factor in the governor’s reasoning.

“Maryland is currently facing a heroin epidemic. The individuals involved in the manufacture and sale of drugs are profiting from the deaths and ruined lives they are creating. The asset forfeiture law helps to ensure that these criminals do not reap any economic benefits from their crimes.”

— Maryland Governor Larry Hogan

Hogan made no comment about the benefits and funding the state of Maryland receives as a result of drug criminalization.

A study by the ACLU on marijuana arrests between 2001 and 2010 concluded that the state of Maryland had one of the highest arrest rates for marijuana possession. Baltimore in particular was found to have an arrest rate of approximately 11.4 arrests per 1,000 people, among the highest in the US.