In Maryland, marijuana is legal for medical use, and recreational marijuana is illegal. However, the state has decriminalized the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana for recreational purposes and it is penalized with a fine of $100 without the possibility of imprisonment or criminal records.
In 2014, medical marijuana became legalized with House Bill 881 in the State. The Bill established Natalie M. LaPrade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC), which became completely operational in 2017. Medical marijuana patients with qualifying conditions can now legally get the necessary treatments.
There are regulations and procedures guiding the use of medical marijuana as provided by the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC). The MMCC provides information regarding registration, inspection, licensing, and testing for the Maryland medical cannabis program. The MMCC also makes available important information to registered entities such as patients, caregivers, providers, growers, dispensers, processors, and testing laboratories.
Currently, qualifying medical conditions for the possession or use of medical marijuana in Maryland include seizures, cachexia, wasting syndrome, anorexia, severe or chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), glaucoma, severe or persistent muscle spasms, and severe nausea.
To qualify for the Medical Marijuana Program in Maryland, applicants must be 18 years, be Maryland residents, and be diagnosed with any qualifying medical conditions. Non-residents can also partake in the program if they are physically in the state or are admitted to a joint Commission-accredited medical facility or if they will be dispensed medical cannabis at a medical facility during an inpatient stay and must have completed the treatment before discharge. Designated caregivers registered with MMCC are permitted to buy marijuana from licensed Maryland dispensaries on behalf of their patients and can convey the medical marijuana obtained legally to their patients. It is important to note that healthcare providers must be registered with the MMCC.
Furthermore, a minor patient under 18 years can participate in the program if the minor has at least an adult caregiver who must be a parent or legal guardian aged 21 years or older. A minor patient can have up to four caregivers, of which two must be either parents or legal guardians, and the other two must be adults (21 years and above) appointed by a parent or guardian. These caregivers must register with MMCC before registering minor patients.
The Maryland general assembly passed House Bill 1 in 2022 to allow Maryland voters to decide on the legality of recreational marijuana in the November 2022 ballot. The referendum, popularly referred to as Question 4, asks voters if they favor the legalization of Marijuana for persons who are aged 21 years and older by July 1, 2023. If the ballot is approved and it becomes law, Maryland would legalize the use of recreational marijuana from July 1, 2023, for persons in the state aged 21 years and above. They may possess and use specific amounts of marijuana.
Maryland Marijuana dispensaries became operational on December 1, 2017. According to the MMCC report titled, 'FY_2021 Annual Report', the MMCC had either licensed or preapproved 101 medical marijuana dispensaries; 21 medical marijuana growers; 5 independent testing laboratories; 26 medical marijuana processors; and more than 25 secure transport, delivery companies, security guards, and waste disposal. There are also over 139,000 registered patients and 7,000 caregivers registered on the Maryland medical marijuana registry.
The MMCC’s major funding sources are patient registration fees and business licensing. It does not receive tax, nor does it receive funds from the State's General Funds. The money received from registration and licensing fees funds the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Cannabis Compassionate Use Fund, which the Commission administers. The total income generated from licensing fees, agent ID card fees, patient ID card fees and interest/fines in 2019, 2020 and 2021 are $10,371,437, $10,867,624 and $11,785,235 ,respectively. According to Maryland Wholesale Medical Cannabis Association, Beacon Economics conducted an analysis that shows that the medical marijuana industry has created more than 4,000 jobs for the State of Maryland. It is estimated that Maryland Medical Cannabis Industry has contributed over $580 million to Maryland’s economy by September 2019.
Furthermore, to promote the participation of diverse groups in the medical marijuana industry, MMCC welcomes minority businesses, small business owners, and women-owned businesses. The goal is to make known to all that gender, ethnicity, broad race, and socio-economic diversity of Maryland can be seen in the medical marijuana industry too, which promotes variety in owners, leadership roles, and investors in the medical marijuana businesses.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) collates and reports on crime rates and arrest figures for all states and territories in the US as submitted by law enforcement agencies. The crime data for Maryland revealed that the total arrests for drug possession offenses were 25,640 per 323,133,428 population. In 2016, before medical marijuana became operational. In 2017, the arrests for drug possession offenses reduced to 25,008, even when the population increased to 329,104,541. In 2018, arrests for drug possession offenses increased to 26,177 per 330,362,587 population (a slight increase in population). However, arrests for drug possession offenses reduced to 25,038 per 331,433,049 population in 2019, and in 2020, it drastically reduced to 1,566 per 332,643,466 population.
Again, according to the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer, arrests for marijuana possession offenses were 15,696 and 15,620 for 2016 and 2017, respectively. Marijuana possession arrests increased to 16,388 in 2018 and then reduced to 14,983 in 2019. There was a drastic decline to 1,072 marijuana possession arrests in 2020, and in 2021, it slightly increased to 1,088. The crime data for marijuana sales arrests in Maryland showed 2,057 and 2,018 arrests in 2016 and 2017, respectively. In 2018, there were 2,241 marijuana sales arrests, and in 2019, there were 1,902 arrests. In 2020, there were 120 marijuana sales arrests.
The data above showed that marijuana made up over 60% of drug possession arrests in Maryland, with 2020 having the highest percentage of 68.45% (1,072 out of 1,566). There has also been a gradual decline in marijuana possession and sales arrests since medical marijuana became operational in the state.
The driving under the influence (DUI) arrests data provided by the FBI for Maryland revealed 19,195 and 17,132 DUI arrests in 2016 and 2017, respectively. DUI arrests increased to 18,443 in 2018 and 18,945 in 2019. In 2020, DUI arrests declined to 1,986. There has been no significant effect of legalizing medical marijuana and decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana on DUI in Maryland.
The MMCC gives a Maryland Medical Marijuana Card to a Maryland resident above 18 years whose health care provider (also registered with MMCC) recommends the purchase of medical marijuana as a treatment for an approved medical condition. A qualifying patient will need to register with MMCC and obtain a written certification from a healthcare provider with whom there is an established patient-healthcare provider relationship. After getting the certificate, the patient can complete the application for a medical marijuana card with the MMCC.
A healthcare provider is a state-licensed physician, dentist, midwife, podiatrist, or nurse. They must register on the MMCC registry portal before they can certify qualifying patients. Qualifying medical conditions for which a patient can possess medical marijuana are seizures, cachexia, anorexia, wasting syndrome, severe or chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), severe nausea, severe or persistent muscle spasms, and glaucoma.
Registered caregivers aged 21 years and above can obtain the Maryland Medical Marijuana ID Cards by MMCC, provided qualified patients designate them. Parents or legal guardians of minors are mandated to serve as caregivers for their wards, and they must register on the MMCC portal before registering the minor patients. It is important to note that a minor can have up to four caregivers, two of whom must be their parents or legal guardians, and the other two must be recommended by a registered parent/guardian.
The Maryland General Assembly approved the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission in October 2013 in memory of Delegate Cheryl D. Glenn's mother, who passed away from kidney cancer at the age of 87 years. In May 2015, the Commission was renamed 'The Natalie M. LaPrade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission'.
The Commission implements and manages the program for the compassionate medical use of cannabis (marijuana) in Maryland. The Commission was initially supposed to ask academic medical centers for recommendations on how to run compassionate use programs for medical cannabis. But in 2014, legislation made it possible to make medical cannabis accessible to people other than those taking part in research studies at university medical centers. A system for certifying healthcare professionals, including doctors, podiatrists, dentists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners, was subsequently established by the Commission. Qualifying patients and their caregivers are also given written certifications.
The Commission licenses growers, processors, dispensaries, and testing laboratories to provide quality medical marijuana to medical marijuana patients. Medical cannabis has been available to patients in Maryland since December 2017. Qualifying patients who received written certification from their certifying physician may obtain medical cannabis. Only dispensaries licensed by the Commission are permitted to sell cannabis to qualified patients.
Furthermore, in 2013, lawmakers in Maryland voted to decriminalize the possession of up to 10 grams (0.35 ounces) of marijuana. It became a civil offense, like a traffic offense, punishable with a fine of $100 without a criminal record or jail time. Similarly, the Maryland General Assembly decriminalized the possession of cannabis paraphernalia and public consumption of marijuana, and both acts were made civil offenses punishable by a $500 fine.
The Maryland General Assembly in 2022 passed HB 1 to allow the state’s voters to decide on the legalization of recreational marijuana. The ballot initiative called Question 4 will amend the Maryland constitution to permit the adult use of marijuana if approved. The referendum will be decided on in the November 2022 elections. HB 837 was also passed as an accompanying bill to HB 1. It sets out regulations for recreational marijuana if Question 4 is approved. Adults could possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis, and possession of 1.5 ounces to 2.5 ounces of marijuana would become a civil offense punishable only by a fine. Also, home cultivation of up to two marijuana plants by adults aged 21 years and older will be allowed. The state would automatically erase the records of persons previously convicted of marijuana crimes within the stated limits, and individuals previously charged for dispensing or possessing small quantities of marijuana can request expungement after three years of serving their sentence.