Maryland’s medical marijuana program has operated since 2017, and the state decriminalized possession for small amounts of marijuana in 2014. Possession of large amounts is still a crime amounting to large fines and jail time if convicted.
According to The Baltimore Sun, the Maryland House of Delegates recently started the review process of new legislation that would lay the foundation of legalizing recreational marijuana.
Public production and personal use
Advocates pointed out racial disparities and social equity concerns at the recent hearing. They argued that the recent medical use laws and decriminalization “only made marijuana legal for white consumption” considering Black people made up 96% of all marijuana-related arrests between 2015 and 2017.
The new law would allow adults 21 and older to engage in the entire seed-to-sale process of marijuana up to a personal use amount. That means anyone could possess, consume, grow, use, process, manufacture, purchase or transport up to two ounces of cannabis on their own.
Drug reforms for social benefit
A major part of the bill concerns spending state taxes gained from the recreational industry towards communities most impacted by the former drug laws. Three components include criminal justice reform to allow expungement of minor possession charges as well as reinvesting in disadvantaged areas.
Current drug policy in Maryland
Despite the potential legalization, marijuana use, possession and distribution is still an illicit activity without a medical marijuana card until the Maryland government approves this bill. That means potential civil offenses and felonies for now. Those charged with possession may appeal to the need for medical marijuana or defend themselves in other ways to reduce or mitigate adverse consequences to their livelihood the charges may have.