A First Timer’s Account of Testifying at the Maryland State Capitol

  • by Carly Wolf, NORML State Policies Coordinator March 15, 2018

    I’m Carly, and I’ve been a Political Associate with NORML in Washington, DC for about 7 months now. I recently testified (for my first time ever!) before the Maryland House of Delegates Judiciary Committee in favor of House Bill 1264 – a constitutional amendment that would put a question on this November’s ballot to let the voters decide on the issue of marijuana legalization and retail sales.

    When I first found out I was going to testify, I was excited. I knew this was a unique opportunity that not everyone would have in their lives, and a chance to make my own voice heard before a committee of legislators in a state I felt a deep connection to – being a recent graduate of the University of Maryland, I spent some of the best years of my life living in College Park, MD.

    What was I going to say? How was I going to say it? Were they going to take me seriously, being so young? Is 2 minutes enough to communicate the extremely important message I was trying to convey? There was only one thing I knew for sure – I was really nervous.

    I arrived at the Maryland State House around noon that day, and was instantly greeted by my colleagues from Maryland NORML. Everyone brought positive vibes and good energy, which I needed. The hearing began at 1pm, and I thought it would only be a couple hours, at most, before they called our bill. Little did I know, this was all just a waiting game.

    Then came 5pm, 6pm, 7pm… and still no mention of HB 1264. By that time, I was losing energy and hope, wondering if the committee would even end up getting to our bill that day. Luckily, I was surrounded by an optimistic, upbeat group of activists that kept my spirits high. By the time 10pm rolled around, it was finally our turn.

    I entered the committee room, and Delegate Moon (the bill’s sponsor) had the microphone, explaining different provisions of the bill and answering a boatload of questions from the committee members, with a representative from the Marijuana Policy Project, and a former law enforcement officer joining him on the panel.

    My nerves were surprisingly eased as I sat in that room waiting for my turn to testify. The committee members were cracking light-hearted jokes – one of them even joked about Delegate Moon providing samples to the committee. This made me feel a lot more comfortable speaking in front of them. After all, they are just regular people, and concerned residents of MD like I once was.

    I was on the next panel, with Luke Jones, Director of Maryland NORML, and attorney Eric Sterling beside me. We each had our 2 minutes, and that was that. I felt confident in my testimony, focusing on the right to home cultivate and how perceived youth access to cannabis has declined in the states that have legalized.

    The other panels testifying in favor included victims of the current laws who were arrested for simple possession and a medical patient who had to revert to the black market because of high costs and poor accessibility.

    Then came the opposition panel. It consisted of two AAA representatives (as expected), along with another representative from the organization, Smart Approaches to Marijuana. They brought up concerns of impaired driving and youth access, which we had previously addressed. We left the committee room around 11:30pm feeling cautiously optimistic and eager to see how this would all play out.

    All in all, besides the anticipation of waiting for 10 hours, I had an incredibly positive experience testifying at the Maryland State House. I felt empowered, like I was making a difference. If there’s ever a hearing for a bill on an issue that you care about – go. Testify. I’m grateful I had the opportunity to do so, and as a result, Maryland is one step closer to ending the prohibition of marijuana.

    If you live in MD, tell your lawmakers to support HB 1264

    5 responses to “A First Timer’s Account of Testifying at the Maryland State Capitol”

    1. Dain Bramage says:

      You have a talent. People skills, for starters! Nobody has ever accused me of that, I’ll bet. And, you are doing enormous good in the world; I would be proud of that, were I in your shoes.

      You have my gratitude, and certainly, that of many others as well. Thank you!

    2. Julian says:

      Excellent work Carly! Testifying before Committee is vital work to getting a bill to move forward.

      I remember the first time I citizen lobbied or even tried to register as a witness for committee hearings… it’s always intimidating the first time, (Hell, in Texas good luck finding the kiosk!) …but it’s empowering once we get to know our way around our state capitol building and realize for the first time what it means to say “they work for us.”

      You’re right: Our reps are only human. And it is REALLY hard to keep a speech about marijuana legalization under 2 minutes. I use bullet points:

      -affordable access
      -JAMA study on reduced opioid addiction and suicide in states with legal mj markets
      -emphasize the need for transparent lab testing for quality of whole plant marijuana
      -cite studies on teen use and driving from NHTSA

      Then take a deep breath and try and speak slowly making eye contact. Talk about a challenge after running back and forth from different offices trying to reach as many reps at once!

      You did well to show up early.

      Keep up the good work!

    3. Anthony Phillips says:

      Thats nice of you to testify for the hearing! Does anyone know WHEN we will find out if legal marijuana will be on the ballot for MD this november? From my understanding, a vote was just conducted by some goverment officials to determine if it will even be on the ballot, for the citizens to vote on in MD this november. What was the result of that vote to have legal marijuana on the ballot? Does anyone know?

    4. Terry says:

      It was an interesting day for HB1264… a long wait for the testimony to be heard… but a satisfying day once all had spoken.
      Thanks Carly.

    5. Anonymous says:

      First Timer’s Account of Testifying at the Maryland State Capitol | NORML Blog, Marijuana Law Reform

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