Marijuana is legal for adults and is taxed and regulated similarly to alcohol; state also has a medical marijuana law
Last update: February 05, 2024
Legislature taking up cannabis non-discrimination protections
The 2024 legislative session is underway, and lawmakers are seeking to further reform Maryland’s cannabis policies to provide key anti-discrimination protections for cannabis.
HB 525/SB 513 would prevent most employers from discriminating against employees and job applicants for using cannabis outside of work or for testing positive for having cannabinoids or cannabis metabolites in their system.
Additionally, HB 474 would provide that a person will not violate parole, probation, or pre-trial release based on testing positive for cannabis, unless the court or the Maryland Parole Commission makes a specific finding that the individual defendant, parolee, or probationer’s use of cannabis could create a danger to the individual or other persons.
First social equity licensing round underway
In late 2023, the Maryland Cannabis Administration (MCA) conducted the first application round for new cannabis business licenses. This licensing round is exclusively for verified social equity applicants. Over 1,700 applications were submitted.
Any applicant who meets the minimum requirements for licensure, on a pass-fail basis, will be placed in a randomized lottery based on license type (grower, processor, or dispensary) and county or region for which the application was submitted. The MCA was scheduled to begin conducting the lottery by January 1, 2024.
On November 8, 2022, 67.2% of Maryland voters approved Question 4 — a legislatively referred ballot question to legalize cannabis for adults 21 and over. The passage of Question 4 was the highest margin of any ballot measure to legalize cannabis.
On July 1, 2023, legalization officially went into effect. Adults can legally possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis and cultivate up to two plants. A summary of Question 4, and the companion bill (HB 837) implementing it, is available here.
During the 2023 legislative session, the Maryland General Assembly passed twin bills (HB 556/ SB 516) that implement an adult-use cannabis market in Maryland. On May 4, 2023, Governor Wes Moore (D) signed the legislation into law. Existing medical dispensaries began sales to adult-use consumers on July 1, 2023. The state has recorded nearly $800 million in sales since sales began.
In addition to the omnibus implementation bill, the legislature also passed HB 1071 in 2023 — which provides the odor of cannabis alone is not grounds for a search and reduces the penalty for public smoking from $250 fine to a $50 fine for a first offense. Governor Moore let the bill become law without his signature on May 19, and it went into effect on July 1, 2023.
MPP leads the Maryland Cannabis Policy Coalition, which for years has been advocating for equitable legalization. This advocacy spurred Maryland state lawmakers to refer Question 4 to the 2022 ballot and pass the companion bill to set up the initial steps for legalization. MPP also played an instrumental role in assisting the Yes on 4 campaign to ensure Question 4’s success, and we’ve been a consistent voice to ensure equity is at the heart of legalization, from an equitable industry to criminal justice reforms and community reinvestment.
While we’re thrilled by Maryland’s progress toward humane cannabis policies, there is still work to be done — including improving expungement provisions, employment and other non-discrimination protections, and preventing parole, probation, and pre-trial release from being revoked based on cannabis.
Legislature overrides governor's veto to shield past cannabis convictions
Just before the legislature adjourned its shortened 2020 session, lawmakers approved a bill — HB 83 — to automatically shield past cannabis charges occurring before October 1, 2014 in which possession was the only charge in the case. Sadly, former Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed the legislation.
However, the legislature overrode Gov. Hogan’s veto during the 2021 session, and the bill became law on February 12, 2021.
HB 83 shields nearly 200,000 past cannabis possession charges from public view on the Judiciary’s “Case Search” website. Unfortunately, this is not a full record expungement. However, the 2022 legalization companion bill (HB 837/SB 833) included automatic expungement for possession offenses where they were the only charge, which must occur by July 2024.
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