By Elizabeth C. Brierly
Law: Maryland LP vice chairman Eric Blitz can’t get enough of it. Monitoring it, testifying about it, and partnering with coalitions to repeal it, are how this vigilant activist and attorney seems to invest most of his energies.
Blitz frequently addresses the state’s General Assembly to promote bills decriminalizing and legalizing marijuana. He coordinates his testimonials with groups like the ACLU, Marijuana Policy Project, and NAACP.
The Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland quoted Blitz in a press release, saying, “The Libertarian Party of Maryland applauds the [successful] effort to decriminalize paraphernalia possession associated with small amounts of marijuana. While we hope it is a small step forward towards the important goal of completely ending marijuana prohibition in Maryland, we know that public opinion in our state is overwhelmingly in support of removing criminal penalties.”
Blitz also testified on behalf of S.B. 651, a bill allowing expungement of any criminal conviction that was based on an act that is no longer a crime. This bill was passed, and the Governor signed it.
“This is strategically important,” according to Blitz, “because … if we can successfully remove criminal penalties through future legislation, we won’t have to promote separate expungement provisions. Expungement will automatically become an available remedy, a point that can be made to legislators seeking to bring positive change to their constituents.”
In February, Blitz testified to the House Ways and Means Committee in favor of H.B. 626, a bill that would replace the current standard of a minimum of one percent of registered voters necessary to maintain ballot access, with a registration requirement of a minimum of 10,000 voters being affiliated with the party. This would give the MDLP, which has over 15,000 registered voters, permanent ballot status.
“While we had a much more receptive response before the House Ways and Means Committee, like last year’s bill it failed to receive a vote from the committee,” wrote Blitz. “We’ll keep on trying each year until we get this bill passed.”
MDLP had already passed the other ballot-access test. Shawn Quinn, the 2014 gubernatorial candidate, received 1.5 percent of the vote in November, serving to keep the party on the ballot through 2016.
In addition to the bills on which he personally testified, Blitz monitored all bills in the 2015 Maryland General Assembly session, unearthing more than 27 relevant to Libertarians on topics that include civil asset forfeiture, access to public information, regulatory impact review, and police conduct. He compiled a thorough post-session report that was posted to the LPMD website, here: LPMaryland.org/2015-legislative-review
As MDLP’s Vice Chair, Blitz helped with strategic planning when the party teamed with the Marijuana Policy Coalition, together working hard to build support for the marijuana bills. He helped to organize a legislators-only forum, advocacy training for volunteers, a lobby night, testimony before the General Assembly committees, and legislative lobbying.
Blitz acts as the MDLP’s liaison to Marylanders for Open Government, a network which helped pass three bills increasing transparency and lowering fees for Maryland Public Information Act requests.
Blitz was also state coordinator for the Gov. Gary Johnson 2012 campaign, after which he served as Eastern Regional Director for Our America Initiative, an organization founded by Johnson.
Blitz tells LP News that for the next legislative session, he plans to have more local Libertarians testify on a wide range of bills, including an effort to submit written testimony on at least twenty bills on behalf of the party.
“I want to raise the profile of the MDLP in the state capitol in general,” he explained. “My hope is that by our gaining the reputation that we are relevant to the state’s political debates, not only will MDLP members have a greater appreciation for their role, but voters will eventually reward our candidates at the polls.”