With possible referendum looming, a look back at Maryland’s marijuana laws

By Cam Hasbrouck and Max Marcilla

In 2018, Maryland could let voters decide “whether to tax and regulate marijuana in the same manner as alcohol” by voting on two separate bills that together would legalize the drug in the state.

The path to legalizing marijuana has been a long one for the state. If passed, Maryland would join the eight other U.S. states that have legalized the drug.

The regulating bill would license and regulate some marijuana retail stores and allow adults 21 and up to possess and grow a specified amount of marijuana. The other bill, a tax-related proposal, would place an excise tax of $30 an ounce.

Let’s take a trip through the past to see how the laws surrounding marijuana in the state of Maryland have changed over 15 years:

2003: Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. signed into law Senate Bill 502, otherwise known as the “Compassionate Use Act.” The act limited fines for marijuana users to $100 if the user could prove they have a medical need for the drug, according to Capital News Service.

Medical conditions that qualify for medicinal marijuana in Maryland include, but are not limited to, cancer, Crohn’s disease and Alzheimer’s, according to Leafly.

2010: Just seven years ago, Maryland had the fourth-highest arrest rate in the nation for marijuana users, with 409 out of every 100,000 people being arrested for possession of the drug, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Maryland sat behind Nebraska, New York and D.C. in possession arrest rates.

2011: Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law Senate Bill 308, which eliminated fines and criminal penalties for those carrying up to one ounce of marijuana should they be able to prove that it is medically necessary, according to CNS Maryland. This was not a legalization law, but rather one that removed penalties for medical uses of marijuana.

2013: Maryland became the 19th state to legalize medical marijuana under special circumstances, according to CBS Baltimore. Under the law, only academic medical research centers were permitted to give sick patients the drug. The law also established the Natalie M. LaPrade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, a sector of the Department of Health that would regulate the state’s marijuana program, per CNS Maryland.

2014: O’Malley signed several laws expanding medical marijuana usage and lessening the penalties for certain non-medical users. Two bills, House Bill 881 and Senate Bill 923, allowed marijuana use for a medical condition “that is severe [or] for which other medical treatments have been ineffective,” according to CNS Maryland. O’Malley also signed Senate Bill 364, also known as “Jake’s Law,” which decriminalized the possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana, according to the Baltimore Sun.

2015: More than a year after legalizing medical marijuana in 2013, the state began accepting applications from prospective growers, producers and distributors, according to the Washington Post. The state received 882 applications, of which more than 80% were for licenses to operate dispensaries in the state, per CNS Maryland. However, under the law, only 100 dispensaries would be allowed throughout Maryland.

2016: The Maryland General Assembly overrode a veto by Gov. Larry Hogan on a law that legalized the possession of marijuana paraphernalia such as rolling papers, per CBS Baltimore. Later last year, the state approved 30 businesses to begin growing marijuana for medical use, according to the Washington Post.

While many things in Maryland are different under Hogan, a Republican, than O’Malley, a Democrat, their stance on marijuana is one of the greatest disparities between the state’s 61st and 62nd governors.

Featured image courtesy of Creative Commons.


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