Adult-use cannabis is looking to be more of a sure thing in Maryland after lawmakers at the state capitol on Wednesday put together preliminary guidelines for the proposed new industry.
The regulations, which include possession limits of 1.5 ounces or up to two plants for home growing, as well as a path for previous low-level marijuana arrests to be expunged from offenders’ criminal records, will become reality in the likely event that voters approve a November ballot question to legalize adult-use. They’re outlined in House Bill 1 and House Bill 837, both of which will likely head to the Democrat-controlled state Senate next week for a rubber stamp and perhaps further deliberation.
Legal use vs. recreational sales
The House measures notably would not legalize recreational sales. Instead, they would focus only on allowing people to possess and use marijuana without criminal penalties.
“The obvious question here is where people are going to get the cannabis they’re legally allowed to possess and use if they can’t get it from a legal dispensary,” said Marla Roberts, a cannabis advocate in the capital city of Annapolis. “Not everyone wants to grow weed at their home.”
A spokesperson for Rep. Luke Clippinger, lead sponsor of HB1 and HB837, said amendments for the bill are “still possible.” The Maryland Senate could also still lay groundwork for legal dispensaries to open if and when the ballot measure is approved later this year.
The voters will get their say
Wednesday’s House vote came mostly on party lines, with Democrats in favor of the bills outnumbering dissenting Republicans who pushed for larger fines against people caught high or using cannabis in public. According to the bills, such a fine would be only $50, which is half of the $100 Maryland levies against people caught drunk or consuming alcohol in public.
The House bills also leave out the opportunity for local municipalities to ban cannabis growing or consumption, a stipulation that Republicans objected to. But regardless of what makes it through the state legislature this week and next, a November ballot question would be very likely to earn voters’ approval.
An October poll of 700 Maryland adults found 60 percent were in favor of legalizing adult-use and 33 percent were opposed. Maryland voters approved medical cannabis in 2012 and could join 18 other states that already allow recreational cannabis.