Let’s get to know the existing cannabis environment in Maryland.
Many states and areas around the United States of America, as well as other parts of the world, are finally legalizing cannabis and the world is thanking them for it. For one, it removes the black market and the threat of consumers purchasing unregulated goods. What’s more, it allows adults to enjoy marijuana and its benefits without fearing being caught by the authorities.
Although there are many states where medical marijuana is already legal, recreational cannabis is still up for debate in many areas, including that of Maryland. With the promise of the cannabis sector becoming a multibillion-dollar industry, bringing well over $20 billion in the United States alone, it seems that Maryland is not far from legalizing the drug as well.
In Baltimore alone, there are numerous hip and up and coming dispensaries along the area, signaling a turn for the better. The presence of these establishments not only allow access for medical marijuana patients, but is a sign of hope that the cannabis industry is finally starting to take root within the state.
For those who are raring to explore the state’s cannabis culture, you might want to stick around and read until the end to know more about the goings-on in the state, especially if you’re visiting or if you live in Maryland.
Current Laws Surrounding the Use and Possession of Cannabis
You should know about the essential rules and regulations surrounding cannabis in the state of Maryland, particularly if you are planning to visit the state and purchase your much-needed cannabis stash.
As of writing, recreational adult-use cannabis is still not legal in Maryland. However, the state has successfully legalized medical marijuana use in the state,
Cannabis Legalization in the State
While Maryland has made strides in making medical cannabis accessible to patients and users in the state, recreational cannabis use is still not legal. It is also worth pointing out that possession of 10 grams or less is decriminalized.
Medical marijuana has been approved and regulated in the state since 2013 through a state-regulated medical cannabis program. Called the Natalie M. LaPrade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC), the program fully launched 4 years later on December 1, 2017.
Although the program only became fully operational in 2017, there were legal protections for medical marijuana patients in 2003 under the Darrell Putman Compassionate Use Act, otherwise referred to as House Bill 702. This bill allowed patients who possess less than an ounce of cannabis to present proof of their medical condition/s, the physician’s recommendation, and other necessary factors. However, the fine still levied to individuals did not go over $100.
Individuals and patients who met qualifying conditions, later on, enjoyed having their aforementioned criminal removed under the Senate Bill 308 when it was passed in May 2011. Since then, there were numerous changes and events that helped further the reach and influence of medical cannabis in Maryland.
By 2019, the medical marijuana industry in the state has expanded exponentially, with 18 licensed growers, 82 dispensaries, and over 70,000 patients registered for a medical cannabis card.
While adult-use recreational cannabis is still not legal in Maryland, it is important that authorities in Maryland are making great strides in helping the state achieve this in a few years’ time.
Getting a Medical Marijuana Card
Since cannabis is only legal for medical marijuana patients at the moment, individuals might be interested to know how they can qualify for a medical marijuana card. Bear in mind that only people who have qualifying conditions and whose provider approves them for cannabis as a treatment can apply.
The qualifying medical conditions needed to become a patient include anorexia, cachexia, chronic or severe pain, glaucoma, severe or persistent muscle spasms, severe nausea, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), wasting syndrome, and other chronic debilitating conditions where other administered treatments and medication have proved ineffective.
In order to certify their medical condition, patients must obtain a written certification from their medical provider. Thankfully, as of 2016 under House Bill 104, physicians are not the only healthcare providers recognized by the law to recommend the use of medical marijuana to patients. It has now expanded to include the likes of nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, podiatrists, and dentists.
Adult patients aged 18 and over may register as a patient with the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission without having to provide a caregiver.
On the other hand, minors who are aged 18 and under need to provide at least one caregiver. Parents or guardians aged 21 and up are the only ones that will be allowed to serve as caregivers for minor patients. Caregivers should likewise register within the program to be officially recognized.
After obtaining the required documentation, qualified individuals can proceed to register online. This will require a $50 non-refundable fee. If approved, patients who have received and or printed their temporary Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission patient ID card can now visit licensed Maryland dispensaries and purchase the necessary stash.
Currently, the state only allows medical marijuana patients to have a thirty-day supply of medical cannabis at any given time, so be sure to keep this in mind if you are buying your marijuana items.
Support and Demand for Marijuana in Maryland
Just recently, CBS Baltimore reported that Goucher College took a poll to determine the support of the legalization of adult-use recreational cannabis in the state. The poll took answers from 700 residents by phone from October 14, 2021, to October 20, 2021.
The poll revealed that around two-thirds or approximately 60% of residents are in support of legalizing recreational cannabis in Maryland.
Meanwhile, one-third or 33% of the residents are against this possibility. The remaining did not answer the question or were undecided.
As such, CBS Baltimore concluded that the public support for recreational marijuana in Maryland has slightly waned since the previous poll conducted just in March this year. The previous poll saw 67% of Maryland residents in support for the legalization.
The numbers for cannabis legalization also fell, with CBS Baltimore saying that only 65% only Democrats were in favor of the matter, while 30% of the party was against it. Republicans, on the other hand, saw 41% in favor of the legalization, while a larger percentage at 48% opposed it.
While the numbers in favor of legalizing recreational cannabis have slightly waned, Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center director at Goucher College Mileah Kromer said, “Legalization of recreational cannabis continues to be popular amongst Marylanders.”
“We know both the presiding officers of the Senate as well as the House are in support of moving forward with [the] legalization of recreational cannabis,” continued Kromer.
Marijuana Moment pointed out that the legalization garnered more support and popularity against current United States President Joe Biden who only obtained 53% of votes.
Overall, the poll from Goucher College saw that there is still quite the demand and support for adult-use recreational cannabis in Maryland no matter what the people’s political affiliations and ideologies might be.
Plans for Cannabis Legalization in Maryland
While it seems that legalizing and decriminalizing marijuana is the right and most natural thing to do, this certainly is a big leap for the state, it appears that the people in charge are still not ready for such a big change, but not for the factors that you might have in mind.
As a matter of fact, the Maryland General Assembly put a full stop against legalizing marijuana this year, mainly due to concerns over taxation and licensing, as well as finding ways to help disproportionately affected individuals and communities from the war on drugs. Despite putting a stop to its plans this year, Maryland does, indeed, plan to come back stronger for 2022.
As of 2021, there are now 18 states that successfully legalized recreational cannabis designed for adult use. Although Maryland still has a ways to go, the states expect to join one of the many states to have legalized recreational cannabis by November 2022 if residents approve the referendum by voting.
Should the referendum pass, the House Cannabis Workgroup will work and plan accordingly to help implement adult-use cannabis by 2023. The group in question was appointed by House Speaker Adrienne Jones and will be tasked with analyzing different perspectives and preparing the legalization referendum.
Representative Luke Clippinger chairs the House Cannabis Referendum and Legalization Workgroup. Other members include Majority Leader Eric Luedtke, Minority Leader Jason Buckel, and Legislative Black Caucus Chair Darryl Barnes, to name a few.
In a statement, Clippinger said last September that cannabis laws have “had a disparate impact on people of color for far too long with no real impact on public safety,” notes Marijuana Moment.
As such, Clippinger states that members of the committee will be in charge of “establish[ing] the legal framework that’s necessary to fully implement the legalization of marijuana and learn from the mistakes that other states have made before us.”
To address the challenges that Maryland has encountered earlier this year, the panel will not only take into account taxation and business licensing concerns into account, it will also factor in other issues as well.
Marijuana Moment notes that other aspects that the team will tackle include cannabis-related criminal and traffic laws, expungement of prior convictions, and social equity. To fully address and focus on the aforementioned aspects, the members will each belong to a subcommittee where they will be tasked with overseeing the impact and aspects of legalization on public health, tax, business, criminal justice, and the like.
Other aspects that the team intends to focus on include cannabis education designed for safe consumption, the expansion of addiction treatment services, and honing on programs to compensate those affected by the war on drugs.
A Push in the Right Direction
Although there are still many aspects up for discussion, and the two bills that aim to legalize recreational marijuana failed to be given the appropriate tie during the Maryland General Assembly this year, CBS Local is positive that the leaders are interested in moving forward.
One of the key factors that influenced the decision of the leaders is that the adult-use recreational cannabis industry could bring in millions of revenue. In particular, legalized marijuana that has been taxed could allow the state of Maryland to enjoy approximately $300 million in revenue.
In a statement, legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project Olivia Naugle said, “This is creating hundreds of dollars in tax revenue in other states. And Maryland has the same opportunity to benefit from the economic boost of legalizing cannabis.”
What the Future Cannabis Environment in Maryland looks like
Despite the global health crisis that plagued the world and most parts of the United States, it appears that the cannabis industry remains very much alive and well. As a matter of fact, JD Supra reports that in 2020 alone, the cannabis sales went over by as much as $17 billion, a 46% increase from 2019.
With Maryland planning to join other states that have successfully legalized adult-use recreational cannabis, it is quite safe to say that the future is definitely bright. Apart from generating millions of dollars for the state, Maryland can also boost its economic activity by providing jobs to its people.
In no time, there can be expansive products and offerings from dispensaries, as well as a culture of awareness and education for responsible cannabis use.
Moreover, it can also improve its cannabis culture and be more inclusive. Although medical marijuana patients are enjoying the medical benefits afforded to them by cannabis, soon enough, non-patients can also get in on the fun.
The Bottom Line
There is no doubt that cannabis culture in Maryland is on the rise. While there are still roadblocks and complications to navigate along the way, there is no doubt that the local industry is more than ready to expand its horizon.
The demand is certainly there and with the idea of legalization looming in the state, you can expect to see a booming industry that is filled with hopes and dreams. Until then, you can do your part in advocating for recreational marijuana to be legalized.