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Originally Posted On: https://zenleafdispensaries.com/blog/cannabis-maryland/
The state of adult-use cannabis in Maryland is undergoing substantial changes in 2023. With the laws surrounding cannabis changing frequently—and especially as they are so different from state to state—it can be difficult to keep up.
Our informative guide is designed to put things in plain English and help you understand the latest state laws and regulations regarding the sale and use of cannabis in Maryland.
When Did Cannabis Become Legal in Maryland?
This is a seemingly simple question that is more complex than you’d think. It can potentially be answered in several ways, depending on how you define “legalization.” Maryland joins a number of other states, including Michigan, where recreational cannabis was legalized by a public ballot measure rather than legislation or executive order. The people of Maryland approved adult-use cannabis in the November 2022 general election, but the date cannabis legalization is slated to go into effect is not until July 1, 2023.
In the meantime, these next few months are the perfect opportunity to continue educating yourself on Maryland’s cannabis laws and regulations. While you’re continuing your education, be cautious and patient for state-legal marijuana. Though cannabis has been decriminalized in many regions of the state, it is not statewide. Being arrested with cannabis on your person prior to the start of full legalization can still result in serious penalties, including fines from $100 to $1,000, and even jail time.
Fortunately, most cannabis charges at this time will be civil offenses rather than misdemeanor crimes.
Outside of adult-use legalization and decriminalization, a third way to answer this question exists: medicinal cannabis has been legal in Maryland since 2014. That year, the passage of House Bill 881 established the Natalie M. La Prade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC). Maryland’s medicinal cannabis laws are not expected to see any direct changes because of the 2023 changes concerning recreational or adult use.
What Are the Current Marijuana Laws in Maryland?
As of February 2023, Maryland’s cannabis laws are in something of an odd transition period, as described above. While adult-use cannabis was legalized by popular vote in November of 2022, legalization won’t occur until July of this year, though medical cannabis remains legal.
Before July 1, 2023
Those caught with cannabis on their person can still face the following fines and charges until July 1:
- Up to 1.5 oz of cannabis—civil offense, $100 fine
- 1.5 to 2.5 oz of cannabis—civil offense, up to $250 fine
- 2.5 oz of cannabis or more—misdemeanor crime, up to 6 months jail time, up to $1,000 fine
Between now and July 1, the Maryland General Assembly will be tasked with the important work of:
- Creating the necessary infrastructure (technology, personnel, and workflows) to appropriately license and effectively regulate cannabis dispensaries
- Granting licenses to the state’s first dispensaries and growers
- Finalizing the regulatory processes for adult-use cannabis
Maryland cannabis users with an active medical card can continue to get their medicine as normal during this transition period for adult use cannabis laws.
On and After July 1, 2023
On July 1 and thereafter, “recreational adult-use cannabis” certainly doesn’t mean cannabis free for all. As in every other legalized state, cannabis consumers in Maryland will be subject to stringent rules regarding the purchase and use of products containing THC. At a glance, the most important components of Maryland’s upcoming adult-use laws state that:
- Cannabis sales and use are only for those 21 or older
- The maximum amount of cannabis someone may possess for personal use is 1.5 oz
- Maryland’s active medical marijuana program will remain in place
As part of the changes in cannabis law, Maryland will also be expunging minor possession crimes involving cannabis in amounts smaller than 10 grams. This move has been broadly applauded by prison reform and racial justice advocates throughout the state. The policy is viewed as an effective first step toward developing a Maryland cannabis policy that is focused on equity.
Cannabis Legalization in Maryland: A Timeline
Like most states that have moved towards full legalization, Maryland’s recent history with cannabis can be viewed in several phases.
Before the 2010s
Prior to 2010, Maryland had the fifth-highest arrest rate for cannabis possession in the nation. Cannabis was at the root of nearly half of all drug-related arrests in the state. To make matters worse, the state was spending over $100 million annually to enforce marijuana possession laws, making the state’s per-capita spending for cannabis arrests the third highest in the country.
In 2014, the Maryland state legislature passed HB881, which legalized cannabis for medicinal use. The bill also established the Natalie M. La Prade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC). The move enabled patients with a host of medical conditions to procure legal medicinal cannabis from approved dispensaries.
More legislation was passed by the Maryland General Assembly in 2016. SB517 made important strides toward legalization and normalization by decriminalizing some accessories like pipes and rolling paper. Infractions like smoking cannabis in public were also reduced from misdemeanor crimes to civil offenses carrying a maximum fine of $500.
Maryland’s medical cannabis program officially rolled out in 2017. Though it took nearly two years for medicinal cannabis to be implemented in the state, Maryland patients applauded their newly found access to quality cannabis.
Within the first two years, Maryland’s medical marijuana program saw over 50,000 registered cannabis patients. The state licensed almost 100 medical dispensaries within the state and achieved retail sales of a quarter billion dollars annually. The Maryland General assembly formed a Marijuana Legalization Workgroup task force to explore the possibility of legalizing cannabis for adult recreational use.
Delegate Jazz Lewis introduced HB32 to the state legislature. This bill promised to legalize the adult recreational use of cannabis and expunge certain cannabis-related convictions. The legalization movement suffered a temporary setback when the bill did not make it out of committee and was, therefore, never even voted on by the legislature.
A different tactic was taken with HB1 (i.e., “House Bill 1” or the very first bill of the 2022 session). The passage of HB1 did not legalize cannabis but put adult recreational use on the ballot so that the issue could be decided by the voters in the 2022 election cycle. In the November 2022 general elections, cannabis legalization was passed with a strong majority of around 65% of voters.
Some penalties for cannabis use will be further rolled back during the initial transition period taking place while the legal and regulatory framework for retail cannabis sales is finalized by the state government. On July 1, 2023, adult-use recreational cannabis will become legal. The people of Maryland will be able to purchase high-quality cannabis products at a retail dispensary.
Maryland Cannabis FAQs
With the laws changing so swiftly and significantly, it’s no wonder people have so many questions about Maryland’s cannabis laws. Here are answers to some of the most common as we await legal adult-use cannabis in Maryland.
While cannabis has been successfully decriminalized in Maryland and has been legal for medical cannabis card holders for several years now, the most important takeaway is to remember that full legalization is not yet in place. Adult-use cannabis is not legal until July 1, 2023, even though Maryland residents voted to approve legalized cannabis in November of 2022.
Beginning July 1, 2023, it will be important to ensure that you are purchasing your adult-use cannabis from a trusted dispensary. Zen Leaf offers high-end medical and adult-use recreational cannabis dispensaries throughout the United States, and we’re proud to use our web presence to help educate cannabis users and curious members of the public through our informative blog. Our friendly and well-trained staff have deep expertise and are capable of matching clients with cannabis flower strains, convenient edible products, potent cannabis extract, or vape rigs ideal for you and your cannabis goals.
Currently Zen Leaf currently operates medical cannabis dispensaries in four Maryland locations:
Whether you’re a medical or recreational shopper, we hope to help you find your perfect strain at one of our dispensaries soon.
Not in Maryland? Use our store locator to find your nearest Zen Leaf dispensary, and come check out our comprehensive line of cannabis products.
- Legalization of Non-Medical Cannabis. (n.d.). Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission. https://mmcc.maryland.gov/Pages/Legalization-of-Non-Medical-Cannabis.aspx
- Legislation – HB0088. (2021, April 14). Maryland. https://mgaleg.maryland.gov/mgawebsite/Legislation/Details/hb0088?ys=2021RS