Tuesday, February 13, 2018
Tyler Waldman, WBAL NewsRadio 1090

He’s been across Europe, from Athens to Amsterdam, but on Monday, public television travel guru Rick Steves’ itinerary took him to Annapolis.

Steves wasn’t recounting his latest jaunt. Instead, he was with the Maryland Cannabis Policy Coalition urging lawmakers to vote to legalize marijuana. Steves is a member of the board of directors of the pro-legalization group NORML.

Maryland lawmakers are mulling a constitutional amendment to go before voters in November that, if passed, would legalize the use, possession and growing of marijuana in small amounts.

He said lawmakers already have two examples of how legalization and taxation of marijuana could work, pointing to Colorado and his native Washington.

“We’ve taken a black market that was rivaling apples in Washington–and that’s a big deal–we’ve turned it into a legal market and our govt now in Washington state is enjoying $300 million in tax revenue every year, and that’s not because more people are smoking pot,” Steves said.

He said the legislation also resulted in fewer arrests, particularly among poor people and minorities Steves said are most often targeted by police.

His cause does have one thing in common with his vocation: He said it was in Europe where he realized how legalization could work.

“Europe is really into pragmatic harm reduction, whereas in the United States I think we’re more into legislating morality and incarceration,” Steves said. “Most of my partners in this crusade are not marijuana enthusiasts. We;re just concerned about civil liberties. We’re concerned about racism. We’re concerned about fiscal responsibility. We’re concerned about states rights and so on.”

He said that in Washington and Colorado, money that used to go to drug gangs and organized crime now goes to employing people and funding drug education and outreach, with no significant increase in marijuana use.

This interview originally aired Monday.

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