Marijuana Activists Warm To Martin O'Malley As He Softens On Pot

By McCarton Ackerman 09/22/15

The former governor of Maryland's views have shifted since his time in office.

Martin O’Malley
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Democratic presidential long shot Martin O’Malley was known for being tough on drugs and crime during his stint as Mayor of Baltimore, but it appears his stance on pot has now evolved as he connects with pro-marijuana activists on the campaign trail.

During an appearance last week in Colorado, O’Malley sat down for a marijuana round table and discussed the evolution of the state’s experiment with legalizing pot. He also spoke with pot activists and state regulators in the offices of a pot-focused law firm.

O’Malley has supported removing pot from its current Schedule I classification and placing it in one that labels the drug as having a high potential for abuse, but with some medical use. During his time as Governor of Maryland from 2007-2015, he set up a medical marijuana program in the state and signed laws decriminalizing possession of small amounts of the drug.

“As a young prosecutor, I once thought that decriminalizing the possession of marijuana might undermine the public will necessary to combat drug violence and improve public safety,” said O’Malley in April 2014. “I now think that [it] is an acknowledgment of the low priority that our courts, our prosecutors, our police and the vast majority of citizens already attach to this transgression of public order and public health."

However, he stopped short of outright endorsing marijuana legalization during his visit to Colorado. He opposed a move to do this in Maryland in January 2014, telling a local radio station that he’s seen “what drug addiction has done to the people of our state and the people of our city,” and proceeded to trod out the old canard that marijuana was a gateway drug.

But his more progressive stance on marijuana these days is a sight which few would have predicted during his stint as Mayor of Baltimore from 1999-2007. His actions during this time made it appear that he linked drug use to crime, such as increasing both spending for drug treatment and zero-tolerance arrests for relatively minor offenses.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.