2016 brings full decriminalization and the possibility of further reform
Last update: March 14, 2016
MPP and our allies have been making steady progress rolling back Maryland’s war on marijuana. In 2014, then-Gov. Martin O’Malley signed legislation to replace criminal penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana with a civil fine. In 2015, the General Assembly passed Sen. Bobby Zirkin’s SB 517, which completed the reform by decriminalizing the possession of marijuana paraphernalia (a term which included the baggie the marijuana was in), but this was vetoed by Gov. Larry Hogan. Thankfully, the legislature overrode his veto, so on February 20, 2016, marijuana possession was fully decriminalized.
Meanwhile, while eliminating criminal penalties for adults who choose to use a substance that is safer than alcohol is a great step forward, the most recent poll shows that 54% of Marylanders want the legislature to go further and tax and regulate marijuana.
HB 1580 would do just that. Click here for a short, or more detailed, summary of what the law does, or here for more on why this reform would benefit Maryland. To get involved in helping pass this important reform, you can support the Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland and email your lawmakers in support HB 1580 and ending marijuana prohibition today.
An attempt to move backwards
Unfortunately, the same day as the override of SB 517’s veto, a bill was introduced that would take the state in the wrong direction. As introduced, HB 183 would have imposed criminal penalties for smoking marijuana in public and criminalized smoking in a vehicle. Criminal convictions result in 150 collateral consequences and can derail dreams by making it difficult to get jobs, housing, and an education. The state already has a strong deterrent to public smoking — a civil fine of up to $500.
Thankfully, after strong resistance from MPP and others, the recriminalization of public smoking was removed from the bill before it passed the House of Delegates. But, several new bills, HB 777, HB 1304, and SB 1036, would all recriminalize smoking in public. Let your lawmakers know that Marylanders oppose recriminalization — a civil fine is far more appropriate for consuming marijuana in public.
In the 2016 legislative session, the General Assembly is considering a bill, HB 104, that would improve Maryland’s medical cannabis program by expanding the list of providers who can recommend it. In addition, the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission continues to move toward licensing cultivators, which it is expected to do this summer, and dispensaries, which are likely going to be licensed in the fall.
A brief history: Maryland’s first medical marijuana law merely prevented patients who had been charged with possessing up to an ounce of marijuana from being convicted if they could prove medical necessity. Then in 2013, Maryland lawmakers approved a law creating an unworkable research-based program that depended on teaching hospitals to implement. Understandably, hospitals were unwilling to risk their federal funding to participate.
Finally in 2014, Maryland passed a workable medical marijuana law, which allows qualifying patients to possess up to a 30-day supply of medical marijuana (as determined by the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission) and allows licensed dispensaries to distribute medical marijuana grown by a maximum of 15 licensed cultivators. Patients and caregivers are not permitted to grown their own marijuana.
Thank you for supporting MPP. To stay updated on the status of marijuana policy reform in Maryland, be sure to subscribe to MPP’s free legislative alert service.