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Maryland Lawmaker Introduces Marijuana Legalization Bill in 2021 Session

Just a few weeks into 2021 and Maryland lawmakers are already looking to make sweeping legislative changes into the new year. One legislative avenue they are considering is the legalization of recreational marijuana. A proponent in Maryland’s House of Delegates recently revealed a possible bill on how a state-regulated legal cannabis system would work in Maryland.

Legislative Talks on Legalization

Legalizing recreational marijuana has been a partisan debate for the better part of the last decade in Maryland. Maryland first legalized medical marijuana in 2012. Then in 2014, the state decriminalized it. Maryland replaced criminal penalties for possession of under 10 grams with fines ranging from $100 to $500. However, as more bipartisan talks continue on legalization and with multiple states legalizing recreational marijuana in 2020, including Arizona, Montana, and Vermont, Maryland could be in a position to add itself to the already growing list of states across the nation to legalize recreational use.

One of the leading proponents behind Maryland’s Legalization Bill is Delegate Jazz Lewis, where he recently shared a draft in session. Although the fine details in the bill are not final, Lewis and other Maryland lawmakers hope to legalize and regulate the sale and distribution of recreational marijuana, allow state-licensed businesses to sell it, remove past convictions for possession, and create a social equity program that reinvests tax revenues into communities adversely impacted by the war on drugs.

In a recent statement by Delegate Lewis on Twitter, he believes: “It is time that Maryland has a reasonable and responsible cannabis policy, and that means legalization.” In his argument for pro-legalization, Lewis illustrates that teenage usage of marijuana drops after state legalization due to disruptions in illegal markets. Unquestionably, Lewis and other Maryland lawmakers see a positive benefit for the state and citizens if they proceed with legalization. Hearings for the bill began on January 13, where Lewis introduced it to both the Health and Government Operations committees and the Judiciary.

Marijuana Laws Under the Draft Bill

Under the current draft legislation of the bill, recreational marijuana would be legal for all adults over the age of 21. Likewise, individuals could possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana at a time or 15 ounces of cannabis concentrate. Individuals can also possess THC-infused products. However, these products must have less than 1,500 milligrams of THC. If you carry THC products over the 1,500-milligram limit, individuals could face a fine of upwards of $250 or community service upwards of 16 hours.  Furthermore, smoking marijuana in a public space could warrant a fee of $50 or up to five hours of community service.

Also, under the draft bill, individuals can grow marijuana plants at home for personal consumption. However, home growers are limited to six cannabis plants or less. These plants cannot be visible outside of the grower’s property and cannot be accessible to minors. Home growers can also share their cannabis with other adults as a gift. But, nobody can legally sell cannabis without a license. As for landlords, they can prohibit tenants from smoking in the house if it creates an odor that affects other tenants nearby.  And employers can no longer reject or fire an applicant if marijuana appears on a drug test. However, they can fire individuals under the influence of marijuana while on the job.

All marijuana products sold in the state of Maryland are subject to a 6% sales tax. There is also a 20% retail price tax, and local jurisdictions can impose an additional 3% tax. There are no limits to the number of marijuana businesses allowed in the state. However, the state plans to initially only distribute 200 retail licenses. They could license more retailers later if necessary. Maryland’s primary focus for the beginning is to prioritize diversity and inclusion for their marijuana retail businesses.

Tax Revenue Distribution Plan 

When the war on drugs first made headlines in the ’70s and then the further enactment of anti-drug policies in the ’80s and ’90s, racial minority groups, specifically Latino and African American communities, were disproportionally impacted. Nearly 47% of all federal inmates are in for drug offense charges. In the proposed bill, Maryland would allocate 27% of the tax revenue from retail dispensaries to a Community Investment and Repair Fund.

The purpose of the Community Investment and Repair Fund is to help communities impacted by mass incarceration, poverty, drug addiction, and racism. Likewise, another 20% of the revenue will go to Maryland’s four historically black universities and colleges. A small amount of those funds will go to financing zero-interest loans and assisting applicants.

Additionally, Maryland will invest portions of the revenue in drug prevention and treatment programs. These programs include public education on the risks of drugs and drug addiction (7%), medical and recreational cannabis research (2%), and training officers to spot under-the-influence drivers (1%). The final quarter in the state’s revenue will go to their general fund, which they will use to supplement other state initiatives and programs. If you would like to learn more about the bill or want a more in-depth reading of it, you can read the full bill outline here.

Marijuana’s Future in Maryland

As more and more states legalize medical and recreational marijuana, while others move to decriminalization, it appears Maryland lawmakers are shifting towards recreational distribution in the state. Even Maryland’s neighbors in Virginia appear to be making a strong push towards state legalization, which could further help Maryland’s pro-legalization push.

Until the state formally enacts the bill, medical marijuana is the only way to legally obtain cannabis in Maryland.  At Euphoria Wellness, we are cannabis connoisseurs here to provide or customers with top-quality medical marijuana strains and CBD products. If you would like to learn how to get a medical marijuana card in Maryland, you can fill out an application at the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission. And if you would like to learn more about Euphoria Wellness and the medical marijuana and CBD products we provide, feel free to contact us today.