In Maryland, legislators held a vote last Friday, April 1st, to allow citizens to decide whether they agree to legalize adult-use cannabis by November.
The Maryland House voted 94-39 and demonstrated its support for a constitutional amendment already approved by the Senate. At the same time, the House voted 89-41 for a separate measure to implement adult-use cannabis. If voters support this, lawmakers will proceed to decide next year regarding licensing and tax issues. This constitutional amendment does not require Republican Gov. Larry Hogan's approval.
The General Assembly, which currently has a Democratic majority, sent the implementation bill to Hogan in time to override a veto, should the governor ultimately decide to reject the measure, before lawmakers adjourn on April 11th. The House and Senate passed the Act with enough votes to override the veto.
The constitutional amendment states that the adult-use plant would be legal in July 2023 only for those 21 and older. This legislation includes some provisions detailing a transition period between January 1st and July 1st, including fines for cannabis possession of less than one and a half ounces.
If approved by voters, the companion bill would legalize possession of up to 1.5 ounces. On the other hand, it would also eliminate criminal penalties of up to 2.5 ounces and create a civil citation. Existing cannabis possession laws would apply to possession of more than 2.5 ounces.
This Bill could change criminal law and create automatic expungement of past cannabis possession convictions. It would automatically remove the conviction of anyone previously sentenced with simple possession of the plant if it was the only charge. The law allows for the resentencing of those convicted of cannabis charges.
Currently, possession of up to 10 grams of cannabis represents a civil infraction in Maryland, including an up to $100 fine for first offenders. There are 18 states, along with the District of Columbia, that have fully legalized cannabis; and 37 states, including Maryland, with legalized medical cannabis. Maryland currently has about 150,000 registered cannabis patients.