While the legalization of marijuana for recreational use will likely be debated by Maryland lawmakers during this year’s legislative session, at this point it is unlikely to become law in 2021. Lawmakers in Annapolis have moved slowly but deliberately, choosing to take incremental steps to reform marijuana policy rather than skipping any major steps. We saw the addition of a lesser crime for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana before we saw decriminalization, and we will likely see further tweaking of the decriminalization laws before we see legalization. House Bill 0032 aims to do just that, and could be the last major tweak of the state’s cannabis laws before full blown legalization.
While decriminalizing possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana was absolutely necessary and welcomed, the arbitrary 10-gram threshold is far from perfect. The idea was to place a number on the amount that a person typically carries for personal use, but 10 grams is nothing more than a nice round number and not really indicative of the way people use or carry their pot. A person can walk into a medical cannabis shop and buy more than 10 grams, and many regular users buy more than 10 grams at a time to cut costs. If the legislature was truly intent on sparing marijuana users from criminal charges the 10-gram threshold had to be addressed at some point. While we were hoping this would have happened in 2020, it looks like 2021 is when the next changes will take place.
House Bill 0032 aims to actually identify what personal use looks like in the real world, rather than assign an arbitrary number to it. Under Maryland Criminal Law 5-101 the term “less than 10 grams” is completely replaced by “personal use amount” which is now defined as 2 ounces or less of cannabis flower, 15 grams or less of cannabis concentrates and 1,500 mgs or less of other THC products. The new bill also includes six or fewer cannabis plants and the byproducts of those plants. This last modification would be a huge shift from the current policy, as it would effectively decriminalize cultivating or manufacturing of cannabis, which is still a felony under Maryland law. Many states with medical marijuana programs allow cardholders to grow their own supply, as long as certain precautions are taken. If this bill passes, Maryland would be the next state to allow some of its residents to grow their own marijuana without fear of a SWAT team executing a felony search and seizure warrant at their home. This is hardly an exaggeration, as we have seen multiple cases where police enter a private home with assault rifles in order to search for pot plants.