Cannabis legislation in Maryland has a long and complex history. While the use of cannabis was not widely known or used in the early 1900s, the substance became increasingly popular in the following decades. However, in the 1930s, a national campaign was launched to demonize cannabis, portraying it as a dangerous drug that caused insanity and moral decay.
This campaign ultimately led to the criminalization of cannabis at the federal level, and the substance remained illegal and stigmatized in Maryland and throughout the United States for decades. It wasn't until 2014 that Maryland began to change its approach to cannabis, decriminalizing small amounts of the drug and legalizing medical cannabis. In this blog, we will explore the history of cannabis legislation in Maryland, from the early 1900s to the present day.
Old School Way of Thought
In the early 1900s, cannabis was not widely used or known in Maryland or in the United States as a whole. However, the use of cannabis and other drugs began to rise in popularity during the 1920s and 1930s.
In the 1930s, there was a national campaign led by the Federal Bureau of Narcotics to demonize cannabis and other drugs. This campaign was fueled by racial and political biases and portrayed cannabis as a dangerous drug that caused insanity, violence, and moral decay. As a result of this campaign, cannabis was eventually criminalized under federal law in 1937 with the passage of the Marihuana Tax Act.
In the decades that followed, cannabis would remain illegal and stigmatized in Maryland and throughout the United States. Possession or sale of cannabis was a criminal offense, and people who used cannabis were often portrayed as deviant or criminal.
However, attitudes towards cannabis began to shift in the late 20th century, and Maryland was among the first states to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2014.
Modern Day Medical Cannabis
Maryland legalized medical cannabis in 2014, becoming the 21st state in the United States to do so. The law allows patients with certain medical conditions to obtain medical cannabis from state-licensed dispensaries.
To be eligible for medical cannabis in Maryland, a patient must have a qualifying medical condition such as chronic pain, nausea, or anorexia. Patients must also be certified by a licensed physician who is registered with the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission.
Once certified, patients can obtain medical cannabis from state-licensed dispensaries. Maryland has a limited number of licensed dispensaries, and patients are not allowed to grow their own cannabis plants.
In addition to medical cannabis, Maryland also decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana in 2014. Possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana is now considered a civil offense punishable by a fine, rather than a criminal offense.
A Win for Recreational Cannabis
Since the legalization of medical cannabis in Maryland, the state and advocates have been working to pass recreational cannabis legislation. In 2019, lawmakers in Maryland introduced a bill to legalize recreational cannabis use for adults over the age of 21. The bill would have allowed adults to possess up to one ounce of cannabis and cultivate up to six plants for personal use.
However, the bill did not pass, and efforts to legalize recreational cannabis in Maryland have stalled since then. Despite this, many lawmakers in Maryland continue to advocate for the legalization of recreational cannabis, arguing that it could generate significant revenue for the state and reduce racial disparities in cannabis enforcement.
Lawmakers and advocates were able to see their efforts come to fruition in the General Election of 2022. On the ballot for that year was Question 4, a legislatively referred ballot question to legalize cannabis for adults 21 and over. Once the results were in, it showed voters in Maryland overwhelmingly voted in favor of Question 4, officially legalizing recreational cannabis use and possession in the state.
What Does Recreational Legalization Mean?
While recreational use won at the ballot in 2022, Maryland cannabis users 21 and older will not be able to legally possess the plant until the middle of 2023. Starting January those found in possession of 1.5 ounces before July 1, 2023 will only be penalized with a civil offense and a fine of up to $100. Once July starts it will officially be legal to be in possession of 1.5 ounces for adults 21 and over, and for those same adults to cultivate up to two cannabis plants of their own.
Lawmakers Work to Meet Deadline
As cannabis users wait for the recreational cannabis legislation to fully take effect, Maryland lawmakers are working to establish a regulated, adult-use marijuana market. Currently they are sorting out what is known as HB 556, or The Marijunana Sales and Regulations Bill. The way the bill stands now would establish the following for cannabis sales and regulations in the state:
- The first fiscal year of cannabis sales will be taxed at 6 percent. Taxes would increase by one percent each year until 2028, maxing out at 10 percent.
- Renaming the Marijuana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission as the Maryland Alcohol, Tobacco and Cannabis Commission. This commission would be responsible for regulating the state cannabis program.
- Establish a Division of Cannabis Regulation and Enforcement to review and issue cannabis business licenses in the state.
- A cap on the total number of license types to be distributed. These caps would stand at: 75 standard growers, 100 micro-cultivators, 100 processors, 300 retailers, 200 delivery services, 10 incubator spaces and 50 on-site consumption facilities.
- Establish how the cannabis tax revenue will be allocated for a community reinvestment fund.
These are just a few of the things that could happen with the passing of the bill, but ultimately we will have to wait and see how the lawmakers eventually vote on the legislation.
What about CBD?
While adults in Maryland patiently wait for July for recreational cannabis use, they do not need to wait in order to use CBD products. In 2018, Maryland passed the Hemp Farming Act, which legalized hemp cultivation in the state and removed hemp-derived CBD from the state's list of controlled substances. This means that hemp-derived CBD products are legal for sale and use in Maryland, as long as they meet federal requirements for THC content, 0.3%, and are produced by a licensed grower or manufacturer.
Those looking to try hemp derived CBD products can check out E1011 Labs’ line of stelo™ flower pods. Each stelo™ is prefilled and predosed with just the right amount of flower to create the ultimate flower experience.