Maryland voters will decide in November whether to make adult-use cannabis legal in the state. The opportunity came after the state Legislature decided to put Maryland marijuana legalization on the ballot as a constitutional amendment.
Under Maryland law, the amendment does not require approval from Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. Both the House and the Senate in the Democrat-controlled General Assembly passed the measure with enough votes to override a veto.
Lawmakers in the state House also approved a separate measure that takes the initial steps to create a legal marijuana marketplace, should voters approve it. Past polls have shown a large margin of support in Maryland for legal recreational cannabis. And much like national polls and some state polls on the legalization issues, a large majority of Democrats and many Republicans favor Maryland marijuana legalization.
What Maryland Marijuana Legalization Would Do
When voters go to the polls, they will decide on a ballot issue setting up a sales system for Maryland marijuana legalization. The ballot measure includes details on how the system would work.
- Legal marijuana sales in Maryland would start in July 2023 for those 21 and over
- A transitional period between Jan. 1, 2023 and July 1, 2023, would include only a fine for possession of marijuana of under an ounce and a half
- After July 1, the state would legalize possession of up to 1.5 ounces
- The proposed amendment also removes criminal penalties for up to 2.5 ounces and creates a civil citation
- Existing laws on marijuana possession would still apply to possession of more than 2.5 ounces
- The amendment also automatically expunges convictions for those previously found guilty of simple possession of marijuana if it was the only charge in the case.
Under current Maryland law, medical marijuana is already legal. About 150,000 people have signed up for the legal medical marijuana program.
Some Signs of Problems
A recent poll found that support for Maryland marijuana legalization had fallen from 67 percent of the population in March 2021 to about 60 percent of the population in October 2021. However, the poll also found that support comes from both sides of the political aisle, with 48 percent of Republicans and 65 percent of registered Democrats supporting the measure.
Some issues also arose as state lawmakers voted to put the issue on the ballot. The Legislative Black Caucus reportedly had issues with an amendment put on the bill that increases the fine for smoking marijuana in public. The amendment raised the fine to $250 for a first offense (up from $50 in the original bill) and $500 for subsequent offenses (up from $150).
Still, the measure eventually won enough support to pass both the House and Senate. It seems Maryland marijuana legalization is a good bet to pass in November, making the state the 19th in the U.S. to make adult-use cannabis legal.