- Posted on: Nov 15 2022
By: Ben Barlow [11/15/22]
With Maryland becoming the 20th state to legalize cannabis for both medical and adult-use (quickly followed by Missouri becoming number 21), the state joins neighboring Virginia and Washington D.C. in allowing both therapeutic and recreational use of cannabis. However, the laws in each jurisdiction differ. For individuals living in and around those jurisdictions, it is important to understand what is and is not allowed.
If you happened to read my recent post on the state of cannabis legalization writ large, it is no secret that I believe nationwide legalization is on the horizon; however, ‘on the horizon’ is not now and ignorance of differences in state laws for individuals and businesses can be costly.
First, as a quick summary of where cannabis legalization stands post-election day 2022: Maryland and Missouri became the 20th and 21st states to legalize cannabis for adult-use (recreational use). In Maryland, legalization passed in every county but one (and in that county (Garrett) lost by only six percentage points). Legalization measures failed in North Dakota (54.9 – 45.1), Arkansas (56.3 – 43.7), and South Dakota (52.9 – 47.1). In addition to the Statewide measures, a number of cities across the United States voted to eliminate penalties for cannabis use and to stop enforcement of some state cannabis laws. In some states without cannabis measures on the ballot, re-election of pro-legalization officials and strong public support mean the only obstacle to legalization are legislatures that don’t represent public opinion on the issue. 
However the national landscape takes shape over 2023, and voters in Maryland have spoken. But as important as the voice of the public is, it will be the regulations in each jurisdiction that make the difference between legality and illegality. Those regulations (once implemented) will likely change and attorneys at our firm keep abreast of those changes in order to advise business clients (both cannabis business clients and non-cannabis businesses) about matters from licensing to employment and all in between). But with the election, just as was the case when Washington D.C. voted to legalize in 2015 and the Virginia legislature followed suit in 2021, the first questions are usually from individuals: What can I do?
The most important thing is to have a solid understanding of what you cannot do.
Technically, you really can’t do anything as cannabis is a controlled substance and illegal. It is not prosecuted on the federal level, but that could always change as political winds shift. It is important to remember in the D.C-Metro area, there are areas of federal property, be they monuments, federal buildings, parks, or certain roads through federal areas – there are federal law controls whether you are speeding or carrying cannabis. Individual sales are not allowed under any of the state laws and will be treated seriously.
Likewise, not understanding when cannabis is legal (the election just occurred in Maryland; however, cannabis use and/or possession is not allowed until July 2023) or a belief that legalization means that amount limits in the law are really a ‘general guide’ can get individuals in serious trouble.
Below is a table to summarize the most frequent questions I get from individuals about the laws in the three jurisdictions related to adult use (non-medical):
|The Law||Initiative 71||Amendments to Senate Bill 1406 and House Bill 2312||House Bill 837 went into effect when Maryland voters approved Question 4 on the 2022 ballot legalizing cannabis use|
|What is allowed?||Personal use and possession of up to two ounces of cannabis.|
|Personal use and possession of up to one ounce of cannabis.|
|Personal use and possession of up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis and/or 12 grams of cannabis concentrates.|
|What about …?||Hash and Concentrates are illegal and can get you up to 180 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.||‘Marijuana’ is defined to include hash and concentrates, so the same limitations (or allowances) on possession and use of cannabis apply.|
|Yes, concentrates will also be legal beginning in July 2023.|
|Can I smoke in public?||No.||No. ($25 fine, second offense gets you another $25 fine and mandated substance abuse program, third offense is a class 4 misdemeanor).|
|No. ($250 fine)|
|When does/did the law take effect?||February 26, 2015||July 1, 2021||July 2023|
|How do I get cannabis?||Who knows. The District of Columbia is the wild west of cannabis with Congress blocking development of regulations providing for sales and taxation.|
|The Virginia legislature did not re-enact the framework for creating a regulated adult-use market. Until the issue is raised again, Virginia has pushed ‘pause’ on retail licenses.|
|Currently, retail sales will begin no sooner than 2024. Until then, home cultivation, and adult sharing are allowed. Sharing or gifting of cannabis cannot occur contemporaneously with a monetary exchange of another product.|
|Can I grow plants at home?||Yes, individuals are allowed to grow up to six (6) plants with a maximum of twelve (12) plants allowed for a single residence|
Only three (3) of the plants for an individual (six total at a residence) can be flowering at any one time.
|Yes, individuals are allowed to cultivate up to four (4) cannabis plants so long as those plants are not visible from a public way (without use of optical aids), precautions are taken to prevent access by persons younger than 21, and each plant has a legible tag providing the grower’s name, identification (such as a driver’s license number or ID) and a statement that the plant is being grown for personal use.|
|Yes, on July 1, 2023 individuals will be able to cultivate up to two (2) cannabis plants (with a maximum number of two (2) plants at a single residence) so long as those plants are not visible from a public way (without use of optical aids), cultivation is authorized by the landowner.|
|When will retail sales start?||No one is sure.||No one is sure.||No one is sure.|
|Is everything legal now?||No, public consumption and possession of more than allowed amounts are misdemeanors and severity of charges and penalties increase from there.||No, possession of between one and four ounces in public is subject to a civil violation and penalty of $25. Possession of between four ounces and one pound in public is a misdemeanor with a $500 fine (a second offense can receive up to 6 months incarceration and/or a $1000 fine).|
|No, possession of 1.5 to 2.5 ounces of cannabis will be subject to a civil fine and possession of over 2.5 ounces will be subject to existing state criminal penalties.|