A clear majority of Maryland voters approved an adult-use marijuana legalization proposal that compels state lawmakers to establish the rules and regulations for a legal cannabis market.
The constitutional amendment, Question 4, asserts that recreational cannabis will be legal in Maryland from July, 2023, for adults 21 and older. The passage of the constitutional amendment automatically triggers separate, complementary legislation approved previously by lawmakers – HB 837 – that sets out new cannabis possession limits and the process for automatic reviews and expungement of prior low-level marijuana convictions.
Under this bill, adults will be able to legally possess up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana and/or 12 grams of concentrates beginning in July of next year. The measure also permits adults to grow up to two cannabis plants at home for personal use.
Under Maryland’s new cannabis laws, possession of between 1.5 ounces and 2.5 ounces will become a civil offense punishable by a maximum $100 fine. However, possession of greater quantities than 2.5 ounces will remain a criminal offense subject to six months in jail and a maximum $1,000 fine.
“Maryland voters were loud and clear in their support for legalizing the responsible adult-use of cannabis,” said Losia Nyankale, Maryland NORML’s Executive Director. “Question 4 activates long overdue changes to Maryland’s judicial, social, and economic climates. This is an important first step in the right direction.”
Maryland’s General Assembly must now pass legislation in the next session concerning the distribution, regulation and taxation of legal marijuana sales.
During the transition period to legal cannabis, possession of up to 1.5 ounces will be considered a civil offense punishable by a maximum fine of $100. Possession of between 1.5 ounces and 2.5 ounces during this period is also a civil offense but comes with a maximum fine of $250.
The newly-triggered law also means that from January 1, 2023, those currently incarcerated for a low-level cannabis conviction can apply to the courts for resentencing, which must be approved so long as the person is not serving another sentence.
Additionally, anyone with a prior cannabis possession conviction can petition the courts for expungement as soon as their sentence, including probation, has been served.
The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services is instructed to expunge all cannabis possession convictions where marijuana possession is the only charge by July 1, 2023.
Maryland is the twentieth state to legalize recreational marijuana, and the second to do so through a popular referendum.