SEABROOK – Democratic nominee Ben Jealous continues to rally support for his campaign after announcing plans of passing marijuana legalization to use the sales tax collected to fund universal pre-kindergarten throughout the state if elected as Maryland’s next governor.
The Jealous Campaign released their strategy on their campaign website to use sales taxes from recreational use purchases to fund voluntary, universal pre-kindergarten for four-year-old children.
The August Gonzales Research and Media Services poll showed that 75 percent of Maryland voters support expanding access to public pre-kindergarten.
According to a report commissioned by the Maryland State Department of Education, it would cost between $139-$226 million a year to make pre-k accessible throughout the state.
“Legalizing and taxing marijuana and using those funds to provide universal pre-k is common sense policy that will ultimately save taxpayers money, increase our investments in education and help to bring down violent crime across our state,” Jealous said.
Jealous’ proposal would apply a nine percent sales tax to marijuana sales with an addition $30 per ounce sold fee. The campaign determined that the state would receive an additional $378 million in revenue from both streams, covering the cost of pre-kindergarten.
“It takes the proceeds of an illegal market away from the gangs and drug cartels ripping our communities apart with violent crime and brings that economic activity above board for the benefit of our farms and small businesses,” Jealous said. “It also creates a reliable revenue stream for vital public services without raising tax rates on working-and-middle-class families.”
Gov. Larry Hogan’s campaign responded to Jealous’ proposal by telling the Baltimore Sun he is confusing voters after making public comments that funding would include making 3-K universal. Campaign spokesman Doug Mayer also stated that Jealous would have to raise other taxes to make universal pre-k possible.
“Governor Hogan supports efforts to expand pre-k but what he doesn’t support is being dishonest with Marylanders about the cost,” Mayer said.
Currently, recreational use of marijuana is illegal in the state even as opinions on the substance changes. The Pew Research Center found 61 percent of Americans believe it should be legalized, the continuance of a positive trend over the past decade.
The state does has had a medical marijuana program since 2013 that allows cannabis to be distributed in academic medical centers for patients. In 2014, then-Gov. Martin O’Malley signed a bill that decriminalized possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana, turning possible jail time to a “civil infraction” or a ticket.
The general assembly proposed a bill to decriminalized possession of marijuana paraphernalia during the 2015 legislative session, but Hogan vetoed the measure for “safety reasons.” A three-fifth majority of the assembly overturned the veto in Jan. 2016.
“Smoking marijuana while driving is a serious threat to public safety,” Hogan said in a letter following the veto. “… If (the bill) became law, state and local law enforcement would be left with no authority to make a traffic stop if they see someone smoking marijuana while driving.”
Since his veto decision, Hogan’s opinion has changed, telling media outlets that legalizing the use of marijuana is “worth taking a look” especially for medicinal reasons.
Meanwhile, after spending a better part of the past seven days campaigning in the Eastern Shore, it was announced that three International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) local unions, Ocean City Career Fire Fighters and Paramedics, Worcester County Professional Fire Fighters and Salisbury Career Fire Fighters pledged their support for the current governor.
“Firefighters serve their communities each-and-every day on the job,” said Aaron Colegrove, President of the Salisbury Career Fire Fighters. “Over the last four years, Maryland’s firefighters have had a friend in Larry Hogan, someone who fully supports and honors that service.”
“During my time as governor, I have been greatly touched by the selflessness of our state’s outstanding firefighters,” Hogan said. “Every day they serve their communities, and as long as I am governor, I promise that our professional firefighters will have a friend in the governor’s office an open door, and a seat at the table.”