Pubdate: Thu, 09 Jan 2014
Source: Baltimore Sun (MD)
Copyright: 2014 The Baltimore Sun Company
Author: Dan Rodricks


Veteran Senate President Could Show His Chops by Pushing for

Turns out, I am glad that Thomas V. Mike Miller gives no hint of
retiring from his position as president forever of the Maryland
Senate. I know that sounds odd coming from me, but that's how I feel.
And I don't even smoke pot. Miller is 71, and he's been in the
legislature since '71. He's been president of the Senate so long no
one can even remember the man he replaced in that position. (A hint:
It was Mickey Steinberg.)

Jaded in the jowls and white of hair, Miller is all
been-there/done-that about the General Assembly, one of those guys who
likes position and power, but doesn't offer much else. If he brought
idealism to Annapolis, it's long gone. Miller is a conservative
Democrat in a blue state, which is about as pointless as a liberal
Republican in a red one.

He's an old lion who no longer cares for the hunt. He keeps the bills
running on time, but that's about it.

So, seeing him back in action, with no plans for retirement from his
three month, $56,500 job, I was about to bemoan another legislative
session with President Way Too Long leading the Senate he tells
reporters that he supports legalizing marijuana. Holy smoke. "I favor
the legalization and taxation of marijuana, with restrictions," Miller
said in an account in The Washington Post. "I know where people are
going to be a generation or two from now."

Of course, many are already there. Public opinion polls have spiked in
favor of relaxing marijuana laws.

Even more Americans - 70 percent to 80 percent in various surveys -
think the nation's four-decades-long war on drugs has been lost, a
huge waste of time and money. And the most foolish part of the war has
been the enforcement of state and federal prohibitions against the
cultivation, sale, distribution and possession of cannabis.

Only timid politicians stand in the way of ending the nation's
obsession with weed and allowing its regulated and taxable sale.

Miller showed some brass by speaking out as he did.

Of course, he also said that any bill to legalize pot in Maryland has
no chance this year - "Quite frankly, I don't see it passing" - and
that is the Miller brand of two-bit realism. He'll tell you the score,
but not take a strong leadership role.

I mean, if President-Forever really thinks marijuana should be
decriminalized in Maryland, then maybe, instead of just shooting from
the lip during an interview, he ought to try and influence his fellow
senators. Still, I can't knock the guy too much. At least he said what
I'll bet 80 percent of Maryland legislators are thinking: that
marijuana could be sold, just like beer or wine or cigarettes, and
taxed to pay for other necessary services. (Del. Heather Mizeur, a
Democratic candidate for governor, has proposed using revenue from
marijuana sales to fund full-day, pre-kindergarten education across
the state.)

In Colorado, retailers reportedly sold about $5 million worth of weed
in the first week of legal recreational sales. The law took effect
Jan. 1. (Colorado officially projects nearly $600 million in annual
sales, both wholesale and retail, with a yield of about $67 million in
taxes, according to Bloomberg News.)

In Maryland, there will be an effort this winter to legalize
marijuana's recreational use; it will come from members of the

But Gov. Martin O'Malley won't be any help. Forget about it. He has to
keep his tough-on-crime image intact for a presidential run - please,
hold the laughter - so we won't see him rolling up his sleeves,
grabbing a microphone and presenting reefer-revenue charts at hearings.

The speaker of the House of Delegates, Michael E. Busch, will call for
patience and prudence. So that leaves Miller to lead the charge on

Since he's already made a tantalizing statement on the issue, I'd like
to encourage him to follow through. If nothing else, it will give
Miller a chance to show how wrong we've been about him - you know,
that part about being an old lion who's lost his enthusiasm for the

He can prove what an admirer once said of him: "Mike Miller could get
the votes to burn down the State House." And he can fix his own
self-image. Two years ago, Miller voted against a majority of fellow
senators and affirmed marriage as a thing that happens only between a
man and a woman. He could not bring himself to accept same-sex marriage.

"Am I on the wrong side of history? No doubt about it," he said as the
law passed over his nay.

So maybe now he's thinking he wants to be on the right side of
history, and about marijuana. If so, let's go. Let's see what he's got
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