Even as Federico Rodriguez stood in the polling booth at the Silver Spring civic building in Maryland, he was “kind of torn” on which way he leaned on question four on the state ballot. The fourth question asks if marijuana should be legalized in Maryland for recreational use for people 21 and older on or after July 1, 2023.
“Even while I was casting my vote on that particular issue, I was still having doubts. So, I think I’m not the only one,” said the Silver Spring resident.
Rodriguez said that what finally helped in his decision were the experiences of his family members who benefited from medical marijuana.
But he isn’t wholly convinced yet.
“At the same time, there’s the issue of security and increasing crime,” he said. “Sometimes it’s linked to the use of drugs, and marijuana is a drug. So, I have to keep that in mind when I was thinking about how to vote.”
Paul Heithoff agreed. While he acknowledged that marijuana isn’t as “harmful” as other drugs, he said that legalization in the state should also come with better market regulation.
If “they can get it right, that’d be fantastic,” Heithoff said. “But certain states, I feel like they’re going to take it as a cash cow.”
Heithoff, a law enforcement officer, and his partner, Cheryl Chun, who works in the healthcare space, can’t smoke marijuana nevertheless due to professional reasons, they said. Instead, Chun would like to see more cannabis-infused edibles made legal in the state.
Jennifer Manguera, alongside her daughter, Amina Manguera, said legalization in the state “was kind of like closing the barn door after the horse got out.”
But like other residents of Montgomery County, it’s a welcome change for them and their hope for criminal justice and prison reform.
“Do I personally want to walk through clouds of marijuana smoke? No,” said Jennifer Manguera. “But it is there. So, I don’t think that it should be illegal and have the stigma of the arrests.”
Sam Shaffer, who identified herself as an independent who tended to lean Democrat, said that the legalization of marijuana is an inevitable path that not just the state but the country is on.
“I think that it should be legal,” she said. “I don’t think that by making it illegal it necessarily helps anyone.”
Besides Maryland, four others states––Arkansas, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota––across the country have the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes as measures on their ballots. If passed, they would join 19 other states and the District of Columbia with legal recreational cannabis use.
(Reporting done from the polls in Silver Spring, Maryland, for the Washington Post)