As a recognized yet unofficial national holiday, there’s no denying that 4/20 took a different route for this year. With individuals being urged to cope with changes happening around the world, more individuals have turned to marijuana companies and medical dispensaries to quell their stress and anxieties from the comforts of their own homes.
For people, particularly patients, in Maryland, you may be wondering how the state’s laws could possibly affect the trajectory of your fave budding businesses (pun intended) in the area. While patients who receive cannabis treatment are all-too-familiar with the current laws in place, unfortunately, not everyone can say the same. With Maryland’s cannabis laws a bit hazy and confusing, you may be wondering how to best navigate this landscape.
In this article, we’re here to round up a comprehensive guide on everything you need to know about marijuana and lighting up in the state of Maryland. From current cannabis events, business, and of course, state laws, we’re sure to have you covered and more. Read on to find out more.
The Current State of Cannabis in Maryland
You might be wondering if cannabis is legal in Maryland. Technically, yes, but possession is not quite black and white. As a matter of fact, one can even say that the state errs in a gray area. While medical marijuana is pronounced legal in the state, thanks to House Bill 881 being signed into law in 2014, the state has also agreed to decriminalized possession of marijuana in small amounts. This means that individuals holding cannabis with less than 10 grams will only be fined up to $100 and receive no jail time.
On the other hand, possession of cannabis is still seen as a criminal offense in some cases. In particular, individuals who are carrying up to 50 pounds of marijuana within the state is already considered a misdemeanor with jail time of one year and is fined up to $1,000. Meanwhile, those carrying more than 50 pounds of the drug will receive a sentence of five years and a maximum fine of $100,000.
Upon the passing of the said House Bill in 2014, it became legal for patients with a written certification by a certifying physician to obtain up to 120 grams or 4 ounces of medical marijuana. Under this, patients must register with the state’s cannabis patient program in order for their respective treatments and prescriptions to be honored and recognized by dispensaries and sellers within the state. Children who meet their doctor’s criteria can also become patients being treated with the drug.
Bear in mind that only those who have special conditions may qualify for the treatment within Maryland, such as patients suffering from severe and or chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), muscle spasms, anorexia, and other medical conditions that are considered severe and where existing medical treatments administered by physicians and facilities need aids.
The Catch on Cannabis State Law
The catch is that recreational marijuana is still illegal not just in the state but on a federal level. However, as long as you do not possess more than 10 ounces or have the intent to distribute to your group or friends, nor take this drug while underage, you should generally be within the confines of the law.
Though patients may gain access to the drug, the state has yet to legalize nor recognize the cultivation of marijuana in the state. Only legal growers and cultivators, as well as higher education institutions, who have applied for the state’s program, are licensed to cultivate hemp.
While Maryland has decriminalized cannabis possession, this does not mean you should freely walk around and smoke in public. However, you can still push the boundaries of the law by carrying less than 10 ounces on you. However, if you exceed this amount and if this is not your first time being charged, chances are you’re racking up some serious penalties.
Getting Marijuana in Maryland
Thankfully, there are a variety of ways you can get cannabis in the state, especially if you are a medical marijuana patient or you think you are qualified for one. After obtaining a patient card, you may easily visit one of the licensed dispensaries in your area, such as GreenLabs, gLeaf, Peninsula Alternative Health, Starbuds, Sweet Spot, Greenhouse Wellness, Grassroots, Culta, and many more.
Throughout the year, dispensaries are deemed essential not only for the wealth of supplies they have and the numerous learning opportunities they provide to customers but because they help remove the stigma associated with marijuana. As of November 2019, Maryland consumers spend an average of $105 every visit. Today, these establishments are seen as more essential than ever, opting to remain open to cater to their market in more ways than one.
Aside from store visits, you can also purchase marijuana through curbside pickups. This lets customers call-in or submits their orders, which they will pick up just in front of the dispensary. Pre-orders and online orders are also possible for individuals who prefer to stay at home. Many dispensaries allow such services through online stores located on their websites. Usually, products are sent to the delivery address within days, depending on the courier.
Those who prefer to get their orders immediately might want to check out dispensaries that offer same-day delivery right at your doorstep. This is great for patients with pressing needs but unexpectedly ran out of supplies.
The Year That’s Been
The essentials of marijuana laws in Maryland, as well as various ways to get products are just a glimpse of the cannabis industry in the state, especially as it focuses more on the consumer side. However, the state’s thriving marijuana sector is much wider than that considering that its success is not only brought by the demand side but also the supply side and legislation parts.
Business and Industry
When it comes to business and industry, the Maryland cannabis sector is working efficiently, with a list not only of accredited dispensaries but also growers, processors, and pre-approved growers granted dispensary pre-approvals. The combination of these companies, as well as the patronage of customers resulted in Maryland’s marijuana market sales to go beyond $250 million in November 2019, around 5 years after the state established a regulated medical marijuana program.
During the 12 months from 2018 to 2019, Maryland was able to grow its retail sales growth from $110 million to more than $250 million, which indicates a 130% growth rate. This translates to around 36,000 pounds of flowers and 2.6 million infused products sold during this period. This is despite having only 72 dispensaries that cater only to medical cannabis patients.
Aside from sales, the industry has generated around 1,743 cannabis jobs in the state. This led to $112 million in labor income just from the marijuana industry’s investments and business infrastructure activities. Meanwhile, 2,638 jobs were created through the operations and everyday management of cannabis firms. This resulted in $104 million in labor income through the mentioned spending.
Some of the marijuana-related positions that opened for hiring in MD include growing technicians, laboratory technicians, cannabis product testers/reviewers, packaging and processing specialist, budtenders, and dispensary associates or managers.
A lot of these jobs require the right knowledge about the plant and its cannabinoids. Take dispensary associate and manager positions, for example. Applicants should be well-versed when it comes to discussing the plant, its varieties, infused products, and other possible questions that may come up. While they might be equipped with skills for the job, they must also be well-informed about the products.
These positions may require proper training. Interested applicants can get certifications that can help them get the right knowledge and skills for the job. For dispensary associates or managers and budtenders, the Maryland Medical Marijuana Dispensary Training offers a great opportunity. This Professional Training Course teaches enrollees about the plant and its cannabinoids, existing laws, health benefits, and the endocannabinoid system. It also lets students learn about managerial and retail matters.
Other programs you can register include Budtender Training Certification and Dispensary Technician Certification.
Some positions also require technical and expert knowledge. Just look at grow technicians, laboratory technicians, and packaging and processing specialists. To be able to work in these jobs, candidates should be able to have the right education, skills, and knowledge.
This is where the state’s education sector comes in. Maryland is known to be the very first state to have a university that offers formal education focusing on cannabis. The University of Maryland offers a Master of Science degree in Medical Cannabis Science and Therapeutics. The two-year program trains students in basic science, clinical uses, adverse effects, and public health considerations and laws.
Students who do not have a science or medicine background are welcome to apply. Once you finish the coursework, you will be equipped with the right knowledge to determine whether a candidate is eligible for medical cannabis or not. The degree also helps students effectively design, develop, and manufacture products, as well as to identify effects and public health issues that may arise.
Aside from science- and medicine-related matters, the program is designed to equip students with the ability to determine areas that need research and development for proper policymaking.
Laws and Regulations
Aside from business and education, laws and regulations are important when looking at the cannabis market and industry in MD. Back in 2014, medical marijuana was legalized in the state followed by the start of sales in 2015. Since then the state’s market has grown tremendously and brought in millions of dollars in revenues not only through sales but also through jobs. Because of this, parties are looking forward to legalized adult-use products.
However, this is yet to be implemented, despite a strong clamor for legalization on the part of MD residents. In 2019, there were expectations of recreational marijuana legalization come 2020. This is in light of the creation of a working group tasked to study the implementation of marijuana legalization. The group, which was created sometime at the start of 2019, ultimately did not suggest adult-use legalization in 2020. Despite this, the state’s legislature is expected to consider legalization in 2021.
Aside from the postposed consideration for recreational cannabis, the state’s decriminalization expansion bill was also blocked. This proposal suggests increasing the decriminalized amount of marijuana from 10 grams to one ounce. If passed, only those who possess more than one ounce will be penalized. However, the state senate failed to approve the bill.
One piece of good news for Marylanders is the General Assembly’s approval of HB 617, which allows parents or guardians of cannabis patients who are minors to designate a maximum of two additional caregivers. It also allows patients under 18 years old to receive medical cannabis from specific school personnel designated for such activities. This way, these particular patients will be able to get treatments even during school ours and school-related events. HB 617 is currently waiting for the approval of state governor Larry Hogan.
Meanwhile, the legislature has also passed HB 378 which allows physician assistants to be certified providers. Only those who have an active, unrestricted license to practice can be designated as such. Aside from this qualification, they must also have an active delegation agreement with a primary supervisor who is also a certifying provider.
Besides these, Maryland has also decriminalized possession and has taken the necessary steps to expunge possession charges. Through SB 949, individuals who have possession offenses can file for an appeal to remove the charges from their records. This is expected to remove the stigma related to such items in their records that can make it difficult to travel, find employment, and obtain education or housing.
The Bottom Line
Maryland has been making significant progress when it comes to cannabis. With the steps taken by the state’s legislature, the future is bright for Marylanders who are looking forward to adult-use legalization and expanded decriminalization. Moreover, residents can also pursue business and employment opportunities through the thriving industry and educational opportunities in the state.