This November, Maryland voters will get a chance to legalize adult-use cannabis in their home state.
After months of debate, the state Legislature finally signed off on a bill that would allow Marylanders to make their own decision on cannabis reform. This simple bill will place one single question on the state's 2022 general election ballot: “Do you favor the legalization of adult-use cannabis in Maryland?” If a majority of voters say yes to the question, the state constitution will be amended to legalize the possession and use of cannabis for adults.
“Marylanders have long awaited a new approach to cannabis policy and the passage of these bills is a promising step forward,” said Olivia Naugle, legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, to Marijuana Moment. “We applaud the legislature for taking decisive action this session to finally end the era of cannabis prohibition, a policy that is both long overdue and supported by a majority of constituents.”
Because this legalization measure is a constitutional amendment, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan does not have the authority to block it. If approved, the measure will take effect on July 1st, 2023. But other than limiting cannabis use to adults 21 and older, this amendment does not establish any other rules regarding legal pot use. These regulations are included in a separate bill that was passed by the state Legislature last week.
The regulatory bill would allow Maryland adults to legally purchase and possess up to 1.5 ounces of weed each. All criminal penalties for possession of up to 2.5 ounces of weed would be removed, and adults would be allowed to grow up to two plants apiece for personal use. Gifting is also allowed, as long as no money exchanges hands. Prior convictions for minor pot possession would be automatically expunged, and anyone serving time for these crimes would be eligible for resentencing.
These regulations will only come into play if a majority of voters say yes to the legalization referendum and if Gov. Hogan signs the bill into law. And before adult-use retail sales can begin, lawmakers still need to pass a third bill that sets tax rates, licensing policies, and other regulations. If voters do approve the adult-use legalization measure this year, lawmakers plan to draw up a regulatory bill for commercial sales next year.
But given the show of support seen in recent polls, lawmakers will definitely need to get to work on those sales regulations. Last month, a Goucher College poll found that 62 percent of Maryland voters supported full adult-use legalization in their home state. Majority support for legalization was seen among every political party, even Republicans.
“Maryland voters of all political persuasions agree that it is time to end the failed practice of targeting, prosecuting, and stigmatizing adults who possess and use cannabis,” NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said in a statement. “Just like voters have done elsewhere over the past decade, Marylanders will choose in favor of legalization at the ballot box and they will do so overwhelmingly.”