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The Drug War, Overspending, Gerrymandering, the Environment, & More

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“What response will you have for your opponents on the drug war? What plans do you have to garner support from your peers in Washington? What compromises are you willing to make in regards to incrementally changing the way it is approached? And how will you get marijuana legalized in this state?” –Sara F., Elkton, Maryland

For starters, there’s a hugely-overlooked aspect of the Drug War that costs the lives of so many of our citizens who would otherwise reach out for help – and it’s their reluctance to do so, out of fear of the ramifications of doing so. In other words, we don’t have the numbers of people reaching out for help that we could have because they’re afraid of legal ramifications & charges. If we want to get to the core of public health, I believe we have to take measures to enable citizens suffering with chemical dependency to reach out.

There is also an "all-or-nothing" misconception among members of our communities that we must make a choice: to either legalize drugs across the board and release nonviolent distributors of illegal drugs from incarceration, or lock-up anyone and everyone found in possession of drugs the same as we do illegal distributors of drugs. I don't subscribe to this philosophy. To be frank, I believe we can be firm on distributors of illegal drugs to the community, while offering new treatment options through the free market to the public, increasing the presence of chemical dependency counselors among concentrations of high-risk youth in our schools, advocating peer support recovery, and working to destigmatize the disease of addiction.

I am a tremendous proponent of mental health & substance abuse services, and am a supporter, especially, of peer support recovery. But I want for our state to explore free market services that aim to support recovery from addiction without the legal ramifications that deter those who suffer from seeking the support they so desperately need, while we de-stigmatize chemical dependency & addictions and offer free-market solutions to getting people the help that they need. I believe free-market options would yield a wide array of treatment approaches for individuals looking to overcome chemical dependency.

As far as garnering support, I believe my appeal to de-stigmatization of both mental illness and addiction, and the services provided therein, speaks to progressive America, and I believe free market alternatives speak to fiscally-conservative America.

Regarding compromises, and without being too lengthy on the subject: I'm a realist, as opposed to someone who believes we can "End the Fed NOW," "Shut it down IMMEDIATELY," and take those sorts of "all or nothing, right NOW" approaches popular in many "liberty" circles. Change doesn't happen overnight. I’m a practical, solution-oriented problem solver. What I can do is reach out to both sides of the bipartisan aisle and work towards more free market options that minimize government involvement and put real-life, practical solutions in our communities back in the hands of the people. But change happens incrementally, and in steps. It's a process. And I'm willing to work with the best interests of the People in mind.

Regarding medical marijuana in this state, there is allegedly evidence suggesting that the heroin epidemic may be combated in part through use of medical marijuana. While there is clearly much research to be done, my stance is as follows: if it yields promising results in helping to combat our debilitating opioid epidemic, that’s a primary reason why I support growing the marijuana industry in our state. I’d like to see the state get to a point where we can eventually leave taxation out of the equation, too – but again, change of this magnitude takes time, realistically, and I understand that. We did away with alcohol prohibition in the country many years ago when we tried it and it failed – and I’m all for doing away with marijuana prohibition for medical purposes - but we owe it to ourselves as responsible members of society to consider the implications of legalizing marijuana, along with other mind-altering drugs, for recreational use.

A truly winning deal, in my opinion, is one in which all parties benefit. If it yields results for public safety & health, it supports the free market, it is a preservation of individual liberty, there is verifiable proof of all, and on top of all that benefit, if it also appeases both sides of the aisle in some regard, it's something worth getting-behind.

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“If you want to cut taxes you're going to need to cut spending, so what part of Maryland's government would you cut first?” –Matt B., Rising Sun, Maryland

A sizeable chunk of the 40 billion dollar Maryland budget has gone in part to early childhood through higher education, libraries, community colleges, & transportation. I'd start there, and suggest free market alternatives. I mean, regarding transportation alone, we’re living in the era of Uber. It’s a beautiful time to be alive. The market and business innovation have provided options we didn’t have years ago. I also support tax credits or refunds for families who choose homeschooling or send children to alternative schools. The fact that there is an alleged $130 million gap is yet another sad example of the failure of the public school system, and why we need to look at expanding alternative education options that actually address the needs of growing young minds. Preferably, alternative means to education rather than those that cost the taxpayers in Maryland $20 billion annually. Even charter schools are a move in a better direction, despite being funded by taxpayers, because they at least get the government out of the curriculum and operations within those centers of learning.

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“What Solutions do you have to fix the problem of gerrymandering in the state of Maryland?” –Joe C., Damascus, Maryland

I support Governor Hogan's common-sense approach to combating gerrymandering: charge an independent commission with the authority to draw lines. Why in the world would we allow legislators and representatives of a body of the People the authority to shift the lines to better fill their voting pool with people who support their campaigns? It's unreal, the lunacy. Representatives of the People are just that: representatives of the People. In a nutshell: One does not (well, SHOULD not) change the district lines to better-suit one's intentions in representation of a district. Rather, one changes his/her intentions in representation of a district so that it reflects the needs of the people in said district. The former is immoral and ludicrous, and I intend to bring conscience and morality back to the table.

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“My question is about the environment. Maryland is facing a lot of issues with pollution-the bay, the Inner Harbor, and even a lot of the river systems throughout the state. How should we solve this problem?” –Kristin D., Baltimore, Maryland

There is no one answer to all of these problems, but I believe that first and foremost, we have to increase the amount of public awareness and community involvement in the cleanup of our watersheds & waterways. I am a member of the Greater Parkville Community Council here in Baltimore, and in my immediate area, follow a group of dedicated and concerned citizens who volunteer their time and efforts to the local waterways, making efforts throughout the year to do manual cleanups - very hands-on. And it is my firm belief that we need to increase community awareness of the dire need for attention to our environment here in Maryland - and we need to reach out to our communities, organize at the local level, and reach out ourselves to volunteer to assist. I'm big into volunteerism at the local community level. I'm big into the importance of local community awareness, and I think we're severely lacking in that department. We turn on the news and we follow politics at a national level, and maybe we watch documentaries such as An Inconvenient Truth – but then what are we really doing at the local level, most of us? Most people aren't doing much – for the same reason we are facing so many of these issues in the first place – because there is a fundamental lack of awareness for environmental issues in our very own communities here in Maryland. If we get people in-the-know, and we start changing from the ground up, we start combatting some of the bigger threats to our environment. We start talking about legislation to protect our environment when people start buzzing about it, and they don't start buzzing about it until they're in-the-know. I hope to have more solutions with time. I hope to foster a relationship with people whereby they speak up with their ideas, with their concerns. I hope for that to be the core basis of my representation. I hope to collaborate in creating innovative ideas to combat our environmental concerns here in Maryland. And that's why it is so fundamentally important that we have this dialogue.

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