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Maryland's Green Wave: Is Weed Legal in Maryland? What You Must Know

Asking "Is weed legal in Maryland?" Here’s your answer: since July 1, 2023, Maryland law has permitted recreational marijuana use for individuals 21 or older. This article unpacks the boundaries of the new law, helping you navigate the dos and don’ts of marijuana consumption, possession, and cultivation in the state.


Key Takeaways


  • As of July 1, 2023, Maryland has legalized the recreational use of cannabis for adults aged 21 and over, allowing the possession of up to 1.5oz of recreational cannabis, and the cultivation of up to two plants in private.

  • The Maryland Cannabis Administration oversees cannabis regulations, and penalties for possession vary. Public consumption, use in a motor vehicle, and possession beyond legal limits can result in significant fines and/or imprisonment.

  • Maryland medical marijuana is regulated under distinct laws, with a limited number of dispensary licenses, and only certified patients can legally acquire cannabis through licensed dispensaries.


Introduction


Marijuana laws vary across U.S. states, ranging from full criminalization to recreational legalization. It’s essential to familiarize oneself with state-specific legal knowledge due to this expansive spectrum.


The Maryland Cannabis Administration is instrumental in regulating the state’s cannabis laws. Keeping abreast of marijuana policy reform in Maryland provides valuable insights, and subscribing to MPP’s (Marijuana Policy Project’s) alerts offers regular updates.


Current Legal Status of Weed in Maryland


As of July 1, 2023, the legal landscape of cannabis in Maryland changed. While recreational use and possession of cannabis are not permissible, sharing of cannabis with another adult aged 21 or older has been authorized. This shift in legislation came after Maryland voters approved a statewide referendum, thus legalizing the recreational use of cannabis.


The Maryland Question 4 referendum was instrumental in this legislative shift. It sanctioned the recreational usage of cannabis for those aged 21 and above, allowing the cultivation of up to two cannabis plants in a non-public setting and the possession of no more than 1.5oz of recreational cannabis. Penalties for possession, varying from fines to imprisonment, are outlined clearly. Legal limits and associated penalties are stipulated in the Maryland Code, Criminal Law 5-101, 5-601, and 5-601.1.


Historical Perspective on Marijuana Laws in Maryland


Prior to prohibition, marijuana enjoyed legal status in Maryland for both medical and recreational purposes. Individuals aged 21 and above were authorized to possess up to 1.5 ounces and cultivate up to 2 plants. However, selling cannabis without proper licensing and regulations was not legal. The initial prohibition of marijuana in Maryland was facilitated by criminalizing its possession and restricting its use to individuals who paid an excise tax for certain authorized medical purposes.


Over time, Maryland’s marijuana legislative framework has experienced notable amendments. These include:


  • The legalization of medical marijuana in 2014

  • The decriminalization of marijuana in 2016

  • The legalization of recreational marijuana for individuals aged 21 and above, effective from July 1, 2023


These milestones represent major changes in Maryland’s marijuana laws.


Timeline of Legislation Changes


The journey of marijuana legislation in Maryland has seen several twists and turns. Maryland initially prohibited marijuana but later decriminalized it following the passage of SB-364. These legislative modifications were significant in shaping the current cannabis laws in the state.


Fast forward to July 1, 2023, adults in Maryland were permitted to lawfully possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis and grow up to two plants for personal use. This milestone was a result of the people’s vote, reflecting a shift in public sentiment towards marijuana usage.


Influence of Advocacy and Public Opinion


The impact of advocacy on Maryland’s cannabis legalization journey is immense. Primary advocacy groups, including the Maryland Cannabis Policy Coalition and the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), have greatly shaped the state’s marijuana laws. By collaborating with influential figures, lobbying legislators, and pushing for policy reform, these groups have significantly influenced marijuana legislation.


Their efforts bore fruit with the following achievements:


  • The legalization of adult-use cannabis through the Cannabis Reform Act in 2023

  • Working towards preventing discrimination against marijuana patients

  • Promoting social equity and restorative justice in the industry

  • The legalization of recreational marijuana for adults in 2022



Detailed Overview of Maryland's Marijuana Laws


In Maryland, the following rules apply to the purchase of cannabis:


  • Only individuals aged 21 or older can purchase cannabis, similar to the age requirement for buying tobacco and alcohol.

  • The purchase of cannabis is legally permissible only at licensed dispensaries.

  • A valid, government-issued ID is required at the point of sale.


The regulations regarding cannabis possession in Maryland are stringent. Effective July 1, 2023, the possession and use of small quantities of cannabis and cannabis products are permitted for individuals who are at least 21 years of age. However, possessing more than the designated amount can lead to severe penalties, including a maximum penalty of one year of imprisonment.


Despite the fact that cannabis remains illegal in many places, the smoking of cannabis is also regulated and is not allowed in public areas such as streets, sidewalks, and public transportation, as well as private spaces where the smoking of tobacco is prohibited.


Possession and Consumption Rules


Individuals aged 21 and older in Maryland are allowed to have up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis flower or 12 grams of concentrated cannabis, or a total of cannabis products containing no more than 750 mg of THC. However, individuals under the age of 21 are prohibited from possessing or using non-medical cannabis.


As for consumption, the law is clear. Consuming cannabis in public places and a motor vehicle is strictly prohibited. Understanding these regulations is crucial to avoid any legal complications.


Home Cultivation and Usage


As of July 1, 2023, individuals of legal age in Maryland are permitted to:


  • Cultivate a maximum of two marijuana plants for personal use within their residences

  • Ensure that the plants are not visible to the public

  • Properly secure the plants


No specific license or permit is necessary for the home cultivation of cannabis in Maryland. However, individuals must be at least 21 years old and either own the property or have the property owner’s permission to grow the plants.


Adherence to these guidelines is necessary to legally reap the benefits of home cultivation.



Medical Marijuana in Maryland


Regarding medical marijuana, Maryland has distinct laws. The state legalized medical marijuana and established the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission in 2013 to supervise a state-regulated medical cannabis program.


The management of dispensary licenses in Maryland involves the following regulations:


  • There is a cap of 94 licenses.

  • A maximum of two licenses is permitted per state Senate district.

  • Patients seeking certification for medical marijuana use can be attended to by physicians, nurse practitioners, dentists, podiatrists, and nurse midwives.

  • Licensed dispensaries serve as the exclusive authorized channels for the legal acquisition of cannabis in Maryland.


Legal Boundaries and Penalties


Maryland enforces specific legal boundaries and penalties for marijuana use. From July 1, 2023, individuals who are at least 21 years old have been legally allowed to use marijuana for personal and recreational purposes. However, smoking marijuana in public is not allowed. Additionally, the law prevents law enforcement from using the odor of marijuana as grounds for a vehicle search.


The penalties for possession of marijuana vary. Here are the penalties based on the amount of marijuana possessed:


  • Possessing 10 grams or less: Previously considered a misdemeanor and could result in a 90-day jail term and/or a $500 fine.

  • Possessing more than 10 grams: This can lead to up to 6 months of imprisonment and a fine of up to $500.

  • Possessing just over 10 grams: This can result in a jail sentence of up to one year and a $1,000 fine.


Restrictions and Enforcement


In Maryland, the utilization and ownership of cannabis are governed by regulations that encompass:


  • The decriminalization of possession of marijuana paraphernalia

  • The decriminalization of public smoking

  • Stringent regulations on distribution without cannabis business licenses


In 2016, SB 517 was passed by the Maryland General Assembly, leading to the decriminalization of possession of marijuana paraphernalia and smoking marijuana in public.


According to Maryland law, it is prohibited for individuals without a cannabis license to sell cannabis or distribute a product intended for human consumption. Additionally, a landmark ruling in the case Pacheco v. State in 2019 established that the mere smell of marijuana, in conjunction with possession of less than ten grams, does not constitute sufficient probable cause for an arrest and search, thereby influencing enforcement practices.


Penalties for Non-Compliance


Non-compliance with marijuana laws in Maryland attracts strict penalties. Possession of 2.5 ounces or less may result in a fine, mandatory participation in drug education programs and referral for assessment or treatment of a substance use disorder. Possession of more than 2.5 ounces can result in criminal penalties. Bearing this in regions where such possession is against the law is crucial.


Engaging in public smoking of cannabis for the first offense in Maryland is subject to a $50 fine. Distributing cannabis without a license is a serious offense, and individuals charged with possession with the intent to distribute may face criminal charges and could potentially be subject to up to three years of imprisonment and/or a fine of $5000.



Anticipated Legal Changes and Debates


Maryland lawmakers have actively pursued the legalization of recreational marijuana. Some key developments include:


  • Maryland House of Delegates Speaker Adrienne A. Jones expressing intentions for a referendum on the legalization of recreational cannabis

  • State Senator Brian Feldman proposing bill SB 708 advocating for the legalization and regulation of the substance

  • Delegate Jazz Lewis proposing bill H.B. 32 advocating for the legalization and regulation of the substance


These efforts highlight the growing momentum toward the legalization of recreational marijuana in Maryland.


Influential organizations like the Maryland Cannabis Policy Coalition and the Marijuana Legalization Workgroup formed by the General Assembly are dedicated to investigating potential pathways for the legalization of recreational marijuana for adult use. These initiatives reflect the ongoing efforts to evolve the marijuana laws in Maryland further.



Final Thoughts


The journey of marijuana legislation in Maryland has been complex, with laws continuously evolving to reflect the changing societal, political, and economic landscape. The current legislation, which permits the recreational use and sharing of cannabis among adults aged 21 and over, is a significant step towards a more liberal approach to marijuana use. However, it’s important to remember that with these rights come responsibilities, and non-compliance can lead to severe penalties.


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