Maryland has preliminarily legalized cannabis. It would join 20 other states and the District of Columbia in allowing adults to use marijuana recreationally as long as the Maryland General Assembly passes laws governing the use, distribution, possession, regulation, and taxation of cannabis in the state.
If the General Assembly passes those laws, the earliest adults 21 and older may use cannabis recreationally in Maryland is July 1, 2023. If the General Assembly has not passed such laws by that time, adults will have to wait until it does before being able to use cannabis recreationally.
This change comes via a constitutional amendment. Maryland voters resoundingly approved adding “Article XX – Cannabis” to their state’s constitution by a 2:1 margin.
The Maryland legislature saw this coming. It passed a law (“HB 837”) six months before the midterms that fills in the details of what happens between now and July 2023 for cannabis in Maryland:
- From now until the end of 2022, it’s status quo. Possessing cannabis that isn’t medical marijuana is either a civil offense or crime. Having less than 10g is a civil offense punishable by a fine. 10g or more is a crime that could come with jail time and a fine.
- From January 1, 2023 through June 30, 2023, possessing any amount of non-medical cannabis will still be a civil offense or crime. However, the amount someone needs to possess in order to commit a crime rather than a civil offense will be higher than it was before (up to about 42.5g rather than 10g).
- From July 1, 2023 onward, subject to the General Assembly passing laws governing cannabis in the state, Maryland will allow adults 21 and older to legally possess and use up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis, 12g of concentrated cannabis, or 750mg of cannabis products containing delta-9 THC (like edibles). However, having more than 2.5 ounces of cannabis, 20g of concentrated cannabis, or 1,250mg of cannabis products containing delta-9 THC will still be a crime that could come with jail time and a fine.
For businesses, HB 837 and the amendment provide:
- Tax benefits. HB 837 will allow a “cannabis establishment licensed by the State” to deduct “ordinary and necessary expenses” of operating its business from its federal adjusted gross income to arrive at its “Maryland adjusted gross income” if those expenses are disallowed by the Internal Revenue Code.
- A wait on licensing, regulatory, and tax laws. HB 837 and the amendment leave it up to the General Assembly to enact licensing, regulatory, and tax laws regarding recreational cannabis use at some point in the future.
Beyond preliminarily legalizing recreational use, HB 837 pursues equitable goals which would start July 1, 2023, covering:
- Release from jail. A person jailed for possessing cannabis may ask a court for resentencing. HB 837 tells the court to resentence that person to the time they’ve served. And then, if the person is not serving any other concurrent or consecutive sentence for another crime, HB 837 tells the court to release them from jail.
- Expungement of cannabis possession charges. A person can get a cannabis possession case expunged from their record. If the cannabis possession charge was brought before July 1, 2023 and is the only one in the case, HB 837 directs the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to expunge the case on or before July 1, 2024.
- Expungement timing for possession with intent to distribute charges. A person convicted of possession with intent to distribute cannabis may file their petition for expungement one year earlier than they could before.
- Maryland’s new “Cannabis Business Assistance Fund.” HB 837 establishes this new fund. The fund aims “to assist small, minority-owned, and women-owned businesses entering the adult-use cannabis industry.” The fund will provide grants and loans to assist qualified businesses with license application costs, operating expenses, and training. And populations “that have been historically disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of laws criminalizing the use of cannabis” will receive priority in receiving money from the fund.
- Maryland’s new “Community Reinvestment and Repair Fund.” This is another fund established by HB 837. It aims “to provide funds to community-based organizations that serve communities determined by the office of the attorney general to have been the most impacted by disproportionate enforcement of the cannabis prohibition before July 1, 2022.” The fund may only be used to fund community-based initiatives (1) “intended to benefit low-income communities” or (2) “that serve communities disproportionately harmed by the cannabis prohibition and enforcement.”
With “Article XX – Cannabis,” Maryland preliminarily joins New Jersey and Missouri as the only three states to legalize recreational marijuana use by amending their constitutions.
Note: This post was edited to clarify that Maryland’s legalization is currently subject to the General Assembly passing laws governing the use, distribution, possession, regulation, and taxation of cannabis within the state.