The Maryland Legislature passed two landmark marijuana laws during the 2014 session. If the bills are signed by the governor as expected, Maryland’s marijuana laws will radically change.
The decriminalization bill makes possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana by adults a civil offense much like a traffic ticket. There is a system of increasing penalities for subsequennt offenders and the possibility of a court appearance if you have multiple citations. There are provisions that keep the records of the citations off the Case Search Website, so the Legislature addressed the negative consequences of having a pot charge on your “record.”
The legislature revised the old medical marijuana bill to allow for a dispersed production and distribution system without reliance on academic hospitals to get the program going. That means farms and dispensaries will be coming to Maryland. We can expect the Medical Marijuana Commission to publish regulations for medical marijuana in the fall of 2014. The law allows 15 growers and dispensaries to produce and distribute medical marijuana.
Marylanders shouldn’t light up just yet, the bills will not become law until the Governor signs them, and then only after the effective date later this year. Check back for more details as I review the bills.
I predict major issues with the law going forward. The legislature failed to address the prohibition of paraphernalia that prohibits possession of drug paraphernalia and makes it a crime to posses, advertise and even transfer paraphernalia. Also, possession over 10 grams is still a crime with a punishment of one year incarceration and/or a $1,000 fine. I suspect we will see an increase in these charges as law enforcement weighs plant material with packaging material to get over the 10 gram threshold to make possession a crime. The 10 gram threshold is rather low. 10 grams is about 10 packets of sweet-and-low. Other states with decriminalization laws have set the amount at under 30 grams, so even possession a small amount (10.1 grams) in Maryland will land you in court facing jail time. I foresee that the battle is not over yet, and everyone should expect law enforcement to strictly enforce the existing marijuana laws until the eve the law goes into effect. Federal Law still prohibits the possession and use of marijuana for any reason. So be aware if you are on federal property especially national forests and parks.