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Politician-Touted Maryland Drug Law Is Not Used


July 1997

In 1990, then-Maryland Governor William Donald Schaefer (D) signed an anti-drug bill called the first of its kind in the country. The law gave state agencies the power to revoke the license of any professional convicted of a drug offense (Charles Babington, "High-Profile Drug Bill Became Low-Impact Md. Law," Washington Post, June 9, 1997, p. A1). [This is the typical hyperbole, exaggeration or dishonesty endemic to anti-drug proposals. In the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 (P.L. 100-690) Congress required that all Federal licenses be stripped from persons convicted of drug offenses (Sec. 5301). - EES]

Seven years later, a survey by the Washington Post reveals that the law has not been used. The survey asked officials at all major Maryland agencies about the impact of the law Schaefer once called part of the "best drug bills of any state in the union." Several officials said they did not know of the law at all, and no one could confirm that it had ever been put to use in revoking a license. The law took effect January 1, 1991, and since then no one has lost their license because of the law.

Drug convictions in Maryland have ranged from 11,906 to 13,245 annually during the years the law has been in effect. But Maryland Delegate D. Bruce Poole (D-Washington County), who helped draft the bill, attributes the bill's failure to society's attitude toward drug-users. "I can't say I'm astounded," he said. "The bill was passed in the heyday of zero tolerance, and since then, we've seen a swing against some of the harsher results of that policy."