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Articles Posted in Marijuana

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medpot-300x188The legalization of marijuana in Maryland is now officially in the hands of the voters, as the cannabis reform bill became law at the recent close of the 2022 legislative session in Annapolis.  Rather than endorse the bill with his signature, the governor simply let it take effect without a veto.  The difference is mere from over function, and accumulating the votes is the only major hurdle that remains for state sponsored recreational cannabis.  House Bill 837 lays out the basic rules for implementation of the policy, and if the referendum passes in November, lawmakers will be back at it in 2023 to provide the finishing touches.  The bill is over 50 pages and packed with financial and data collecting components that we will not dissect in this post.  Rather, we’ll focus on the criminal law aspects of the bill that will have a direct impact on law enforcement’s marijuana related contact with citizens.

There are two important dates to mark down when first reading the bill, as none of the provisions will become state law immediately upon passage of the referendum in November.  Assuming the voters do what the polls have predicted and vote yay on the law, the earliest date that marijuana will officially become legal is July 1, 2023.  But, come January of 2023 it will no longer be a crime to possess more than 10 grams of marijuana.  The new threshold amount for criminal charges to kick in will become 2.5 ounces.  Possession of marijuana less than 2.5 ounces will temporarily become a civil offense punishable by a fine of up to $250.  If the amount is less than 1.5 ounces the fine will be capped at $100.  The legislature has also finally considered the various forms of cannabis products in the new law, and that is a good thing for those who are found with products such as concentrates and edibles.  Currently a person in possession of a THC vape cartridge or a container of gummies could face charges for possession not marijuana, which is a more serious offense than possession over 10 grams.  The new law includes all THC related products and breaks them down into a “civil amount” and a “personal use” amount.  A civil amount includes less than 2.5 ounces of flower cannabis, less than 20 grams of concentrates (oil or shatter) and less than 1,250 milligrams of general THC products (edibles).  A personal use amount is less than 1.5 ounces of flower, less than 12 grams of concentrates and less than 750 milligrams of THC edibles.  Personal and civil use will dictate the amount of fines, and the amount a person is able to share with another.  Assuming the referendum passes, the legislature will have to decide whether to use the same personal use or civil use amounts, or different amounts that would be legal for adults to possess.

Another major criminal law component of the bill includes modified penalties for possession with intent to distribute marijuana and manufacturing (growing) cannabis plants.  Come 2023 it will no longer be a felony to sell, grow or possess with intent to distribute pot or THC products.  The potential punishment will be a misdemeanor with a 3-year maximum jail sentence, though trafficking in marijuana will remain a felony.  Manufacturing charges will only apply to adults over the age of 21 growing more than 2 plants, and the 2-plant limit applies to the entire household.  It will not be a crime starting in 2023 to grow up to two cannabis plants in a home, as long as certain safety precautions are met.  Other provisions of the law include mandatory expungement and the release of those serving jail time for marijuana possession cases and the shortening of the expungement process for possession with intent to distribute marijuana.

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cannabis-1418339__340-300x290The Maryland House of Delegates has done its part to assure that Maryland will legalize the recreational use of marijuana in the near future, and now the matter is in the hands of the Senate.  Back in December we posted about House Bill 1 that was pre-filed before the 2022 legislative session began in Annapolis.  The bill was designed to get the ball rolling and establish that legalizing marijuana would ultimately be up to Maryland voters in the November general election, and it passed easily in the House.  The next step was to hammer out the specific regulations regarding recreational cannabis use, and this bill, House Bill 837 also passed easily.  Last week both of these bills were up for discussion in the Senate, and it appears there will be no major roadblocks to coming up with a mutually agreeable policy.

House Bill 837 lays a detailed foundation for what Maryland citizens can expect if recreational cannabis passes in November.  Senate Bill 833 attempts to carve out the same regulations, but it differs slightly in terms of lawful amounts and potential punishments for violations.  The bill that ultimately passes the General Assembly will probably be a conglomerate of both bills, so at this point we’ll just point out the general rules that citizens can expect when pot becomes legal in 2023.  The House and Senate both agree that the lawful amount of marijuana a person can possess in public should be more than 10 grams.  The House is currently proposing a personal use limit of 1.5 ounces or 2 plants, while the Senate is proposing 2 ounces or up to 4 plants.  It seems that anyone 21 or older will be able to possess at least 1.5 ounces without fear of being issued a civil citation for unlawful possession of marijuana.  The House also included a separate threshold for the “civil use amount” but his seems unnecessary and confusing.  Both the House and Senate seem to agree that smoking pot in public should be a civil offense punishable by a fine.  Those who are in violation would be issued a civil violation citation by a police officer, which is similar to a traffic citation.  The person receiving the citation could pay the fine, request community service in lieu of the fine or request a trial date to contest the citation (or ask for probation before judgement).  Defendants who are charged with civil marijuana violations must respond to the citation in some manner, or risk having their case become part of the public record.

The House and Senate also addressed the cultivation of marijuana and potential violations for exceeding the permitted amounts in their respective bills.  The House seemed to bring the hammer when it comes to growing pot, as its proposal makes it a misdemeanor punishable by up to 3 years in jail for growing more than 2 plants.  The Senate bill maintains that growing more than 4 plants would be illegal, but only trigger a civil violation.  It is important to understand that the eventual recreational cannabis law would still prohibit distribution or possession with intent to distribute.  There has been no indication that this offense would be reduced to a misdemeanor, though at some point in the future this could be something lawmakers consider.  The Maryland sentencing guidelines are already changing this summer independent of cannabis legislation, and the recommended sentences for most drug cases are thankfully decreasing.  It would be nice if we could affirmatively say that no street level marijuana transactions could result in a jail sentence, but it seems we’re just not there yet.  On the other hand, the House and Senate seem to agree that those with prior marijuana related cases should not be at risk of damaging background checks.  When the law goes into effect next year it will almost certainly include provisions for the automatic expungement of older cannabis cases.

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weed4-300x194The 2022 Maryland legislative session is still a few weeks away from commencing, but there is already a proposed bill on the books.  House Bill 1 was pre-filed last week by a state delegate from Baltimore City, who is also the chairman of the state’s cannabis workgroup that was formed over the summer.  The text of the bill was made available to the public on December 22 but will not officially be introduced in Annapolis until January 12, 2022.  The bill basically directs the General Assembly to create law governing the legal use of cannabis for all adults over age over 21 as long as it passes in the next general election.  This means voters will ultimately decide whether marijuana becomes legal in November of 2022.  The question on the ballot will be short and sweet, and read “Do you favor the legalization of adult-use cannabis in the State of Maryland”.  As regular readers are aware, cannabis legalization has consistently been supported by the majority of Maryland residents according to scientific polling.  The most recent polling conducted by Goucher College in Towson has support for legalization over 60 percent, which is well beyond the possible margin of error.  If the voters act as Goucher predicts it looks like we’ll have recreational marijuana for sale in Maryland as early as July of 2023.

In order for this pre-filed bill to make it to become law and end up on the ballot in November it would have to be approved by at least three fifths of the total members of the House and Senate.  In reality there will likely be at least four fifths or 80 plus percent of lawmakers supporting the proposed referendum when it’s all said and done.  The legislature will then get busy creating rules for use, distribution, possession, regulation and taxation of cannabis within the state.  Two of the main issues regarding cannabis legalization (at least in the eyes of lawmakers) are determining where the tax revenue will go and addressing the impacts to law enforcement and the rest of the criminal justice system.  Some lawmakers have expressed concerns over the possibility of increased cases of impaired driving, and the inability of police to determine impairment, though law enforcement officers are already trained to recognize impairment from other substances besides alcohol.  Additionally, the standardized roadside exercises created by the NHTSA are not only designed for alcohol use.

The real drastic change for law enforcement after marijuana is legalized will be with probable cause determination to search upon stopping a vehicle.  Police will no longer be able to search a vehicle based on the smell of cannabis once it’s legalized for recreational use.  While possession of small amounts of pot are no longer criminal, it is still considered contraband for those of us without medical marijuana cards.  Contraband means  illegal regardless of whether there are criminal or civil punishments.  There will be exceptions to his rule of course, as drivers (and potentially passengers) under the age of 21 would likely still be subject to automobile searches by police.  Possession of marijuana by an individual under 21 will probably a similar civil infraction to possession of alcohol by a minor, but both are still illegal and require a court appearance.

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weed4-300x194A recent poll conducted by Goucher College over the past several weeks found that 60% of Maryland residents favor the legalization of marijuana for recreational use.  This is the second marijuana legalization poll conducted this year by the private college located just outside of downtown Towson.  Back in March the college’s pollsters revealed that 67% of state residents supported legalization.  While support has seemingly dipped slightly, when factoring in the margins of error the numbers are likely similar enough to tell the same story; in Maryland and in the United States as a whole legalization is preferred 2 to 1 over the continued criminalization of marijuana.

Closer examination of the data from Goucher reveals that like most issues in the county, support for the legalization of marijuana is divided along party lines.  While two thirds of Democrats favor legalization, only 40% of republicans are in favor of it.  Those who identified as conservatives were split down the middle, which is not surprising considering the potential tax revenue that the state would generate. Additionally, many conservatives likely do not believe the government should be wasting money and resources enforcing marijuana laws when there are far more pressing issues in Maryland.  The poll also reported that 85% of self-described progressives support legalization, which is surprising.  It’s hard to imagine that even 15% of progressives believe the police should still be arresting citizens for possession of pot.

Legalizing marijuana for recreational use will generate millions of dollars in tax revenue for the state, while providing a safe environment to purchase regulated cannabis products.  It will not lead to increased criminal activity in the area of the dispensaries, and will not appreciably contribute to an increase in DUI cases or the illegal use of pot among teenagers.  These potential red flags have not shown up in states that already have established recreational cannabis policies.  The fact remains that legalization is a major talking point before it goes into effect, but once it becomes law people for the most part stop talking about it.  For the next year cannabis legalization will continue to show up in the headlines, but now according to multiple Goucher polls it appears an end is in sight.  The referendum that is scheduled for next November will almost certainly pass, and the conversation can then shift to other issues that really are more pressing.  However, within the criminal justice system the conversation will continue for several years.

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thirteen-bags-of-marijuana-found-in-taxi-cabThis past week two Maryland men were arrested in Indiana for dealing in marijuana after his van was pulled over on Interstate 70 for following another vehicle too closely.  Local sheriff’s deputies allegedly observed several criminal indicators after pulling the vehicle over, which included the odor of raw marijuana and the presence of plant like material on the pants of the driver.  A search of the van took place shortly after the traffic stop, and police discovered 16 cardboard boxes that contained numerous vacuum sealed plastic bags of pot.  Back at the police station deputies weighed the bags and eventually tallied 400 pounds of cannabis.  This large roadside bust resulted in charges for the driver and passenger, who were booked into the county jail and later bonded out.  Both defendants now face potential jail time for charges when they return to court.

The Blog does not typically post about cases that involve drug busts in other states, but since the defendants hail from Maryland we thought it would be an appropriate way to write marijuana related automobile searches, which have been receiving a great deal of attention as of late.  Despite nationwide efforts to legalize marijuana it is still an illegal substance in the majority of states, and remains a controlled substance under federal law.  Therefore, police officers are still actively searching for suspected marijuana traffickers, and will be especially attracted to vehicles with out of state license plates traveling on interstates around the country.  An out-of-state cargo van traveling with two adult male occupants couldn’t be more suspicious to highway patrol officers, so it’s no surprise this vehicle was pulled over.  While it almost certainly will not appear in any official report, this particular vehicle likely caught the eye of the deputy sheriff long before it was involved in the alleged traffic infraction.  Law enforcement officers are legally able to make pretextual traffic stops, which means they can pull a vehicle over for a minor traffic stop with the full intention of conducting a criminal investigation.  It is for this reason that a large percentage of drug busts occur on interstate highways and other major thoroughfares.

In addition to pretextual stops, law enforcement officers in most states are able to search a vehicle upon observing signs indicating the presence of marijuana.  This is especially true in Maryland, where the highest court has unequivocally held that the odor of marijuana justifies the search of a vehicle.  Almost all law enforcement officers, and especially those from the Maryland State Police and the Maryland Transportation Authority police have special training in drug interdiction, which is the process of preventing drugs from reaching their intended destination.  Much of this training includes identifying vehicles that could be transporting marijuana, heroin and other illegal controlled substances.  On top of the list are vehicles traveling with out-of-state license plates or vehicles that are registered to rental companies.  Police officers on Interstate 95 and Interstate 70 are rarely just looking to nail speeders, but rather are searching for their next drug bust.  In this case, the Maryland men seemed destined for law enforcement attention and now they have criminal cases pending in a state with surprisingly lenient marijuana distribution laws.  Unlike in Maryland, the equivalent to possession with intent to distribute cannabis is actually a misdemeanor in Indiana for all first time offenders.  One of the men recently was charged with a drug offense in Baltimore County, but his case did not result in a conviction.  it is unclear whether either defendant has priors in others states.  The Blog will follow this case and others like it, and may post a follow up article in the near future.

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medpot-300x188This past week the Maryland House Speaker indicated that lawmakers will pass legislation to put marijuana legalization on the ballot in 2022.  We have known for quite some time that legalization is coming, but this unequivocal statement from a top state lawmaker all but makes it official that Maryland voters will decide whether marijuana becomes legal in November of 2022.  The Speaker announced the formation of a workgroup consisting of ten other state lawmakers, who will hammer out various legalization issues such as taxation, expansion of drug treatment programs and of course the licensing and regulatory aspects of cannabis production and sales.  The group will also tackle criminal law issues such as initiating the dismissal of all open marijuana cases and expanding expungement to include past marijuana convictions.  Lawmakers must also consider the impact of legalization on the state’s traffic laws and a police officer’s authorization to perform an automobile search based on the suspected presence of marijuana.  It may not be a crime to possess small amounts of cannabis, but that doesn’t mean it’s legal.  The suspected presence of contraband such as marijuana currently gives police the legal authority to search a vehicle, though this would undoubtedly change the minute pot becomes legal.

Anyone serving jail time for marijuana related crimes would also stand to benefit from legalization, though it is unclear how this would affect those serving time for marijuana distribution or possession with intent to distribute.  Possession with intent to distribute marijuana a common offense, and it is still classified as a felony in Maryland regardless of the amount at issue.  Many police officers will wrongly arrest a suspect for possession with intent to distribute based on nothing more than packaging and the presence of money or a scale.  Lawmakers must find a way to address possession with intent to distribute assuming cannabis will be a legal substance within the next 15 months.  As regular readers are aware, misdemeanor marijuana possession cases that end with the imposition of a jail sentence are becoming more infrequent.  In addition, many possession cases end up being dismissed due to the difficulty in satisfying the chemical testing requirements in Maryland.  The presence of THC alone is not sufficient to establish that a substance is in fact cannabis.  Hemp is a legal substance in Maryland, and has officially been codified as having an acceptable THC level of .3 percent or less.  Therefore, the presence of THC alone is not enough to distinguish between legal hemp and illegal cannabis.  State prosecutors have essentially been forced to outsource their cannabis testing to private labs, sometimes in other states, or decline to prosecute.  The MSP lab has not regularly been testing the THC percentages of suspected cannabis for quite some time.

Both Virginia and Washington D.C. have officially legalized marijuana for recreational use, and adults can grow their own pot without fear of arrest and prosecution.  Recreational marijuana will not be sold in Virginia until 2024, and therefore it is still a crime to sell or possess with intent to sell.  The Virginia law become effective on July 1 of this year, and now Maryland finds itself behind the curve in the region as it waits to join 18 other states that have legalized marijuana.  The Blog will continue to follow this important issue as we have for the past 8 years since medical cannabis was signed into law.  We will post a follow up article as more information comes out of Annapolis, and we fully expect marijuana to once again be the hottest topic in the next legislative session.  If you have been arrested or charged with any offense in Maryland or Florida contact criminal defense lawyer Benjamin Herbst for a free consultation anytime at 410-207-2598.  Benjamin has extensive experience defending drug cases such as possession with intent to distribute (PWID) and other CDS charges such as delivery and possession of cocaine, heroin and prescription pills.  He also specializes in probation violations and juvenile criminal cases for all types of charges including assault and battery, firearm possession and theft.  Contact Benjamin today to learn what defenses may be available in your case.

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bowl-225x300Possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana has not been a crime in Maryland for more than 5 years, but the full impact of decriminalization is still a work in progress.  When simple possession of marijuana became a civil offense, it did far more than simply end thousands of criminal prosecutions.  For decades the odor of marijuana has been a powerful tool for law enforcement officers to initiate investigations of individuals out in public.  The smell of marijuana has justified thousands of searches of people, cars and even homes, and the fruits of these searches have resulted in criminal prosecutions for weapons, narcotics, stolen property and other contraband.  While State’s Attorneys have not been able to prosecute simple marijuana possession since the fall of 2014, police officers did not simply stop using the smell of pot to justify searches.  And frankly, at the time they had no reason to do so, as the law offered no guidance on how to police in the decriminalization age.  As is typically the case, the Courts had to fill the gaping holes left by lawmakers, though this took a few years and is still an on-going process.

Separation of powers dictates that the Courts cannot simply step in and establish policy; defendants have to be arrested and their lawyers have to file suppression motions.  Then the trial courts have to deny these motions and appellate lawyers have to file briefs and make arguments in Annapolis.  The whole process from arrest to an appellate decision that clarifies a law typically takes 2-3 years or more in some cases if the case goes past the intermediate appellate court.  With respect to decriminalization of marijuana, the first major ruling came in 2019 when the Court of Appeals held that police are not permitted to search a vehicle occupant based on the odor of marijuana in State v. Pacheco.  However, due to the automobile exception and the fact that marijuana is not technically a legal substance (decriminalized does not mean legalized) cops are still permitted for now to search a vehicle based on the smell of marijuana.  One year later the State’s highest court again clarified the bounds of decriminalization by ruling in State v. Lewis that police officers do not have probable cause to arrest and then search a person based on the odor of marijuana.  The court did not address whether a police officer would have reasonable suspicion to briefly detain and pat down a person for weapons based on the odor of pot because Lewis was placed in handcuffs and effectively arrested.  A stop and frisk detention is less intrusive than an arrest, and only requires police be able to identify a specific suspicion of criminal activity.

It took another year after the Lewis case for a stop and frisk based on the smell of marijuana to reach the appeals court, but we now have an answer to that issue as well.  As of two weeks ago it is officially impermissible for a police officer to briefly detain and frisk an individual based on the smell of marijuana.  The ruling is hardly a surprise, but nonetheless was another hole in the Maryland marijuana policy that needed to be filled.  The case involved a juvenile in Prince George’s County who was detained and frisked on the steps of an apartment complex after a call came in to police that individuals were smoking pot and hanging out.  The responding officer ordered 4 juveniles to sit on the steps after smelling marijuana, and found a handgun on one of the individuals after conducting a pat-down search.  This juvenile was then arrested and charged with illegal possession of firearm by a person under 21 and wear transport carry of a firearm.  His motion to suppress was denied and then he was found involved (similar to guilty in an adult case) of the crime and sentenced to probation.  As a result of the ruling the case will be vacated and the juvenile will have his record cleared.

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medpot-300x188The legalization of marijuana for recreational use will not become a reality in Maryland this year, as state politicians have conceded that their efforts will have to wait until 2022.  The work of several lawmakers in Annapolis sparked interest across party lines over the possibility of regulating marijuana for recreational use.  Lawmakers and lobbyists were excited by the opportunity to end needless criminal prosecution over a substance that Maryland residents want to access, while also generating millions of dollars in tax revenue for the state.  Both the House and the Senate debated bills that would have established a licensing process for recreational marijuana sales, along with a tax structure to generate revenue.  The bills were wordy and complex, but produced several interesting snippets that appeared in news headlines across the state’s media outlets.

The House and Senate bills aimed to establish a lawful possession threshold of 4 ounces of flower cannabis, which is roughly ten times the amount that currently separates a civil infraction from criminal possession of marijuana.  Many lawmakers have taken issue with the current marijuana possession law due to the arbitrary assignment of 10 grams as the amount that triggers criminal prosecution.  There has never been any logical explanation why the legislature settled on 10 grams other than it being a nice round number.  Marijuana is not typically sold in increments of 10 grams either legally or on the street, and it is entirely reasonable for regular marijuana users to purchase more than 10 grams at a time for their own personal use.  In addition to drastically increasing the amount of pot that could be lawfully possessed, lawmakers likely would have allowed Maryland residents to grow their own marijuana plants.  There were provisions in both bills that would have mandated personal cultivation to be out of public view and carried out in a manner that would not provide access to minors.  Lawmakers could have agreed on these issues in time for a unified bill to be presented to the governor.  What they could not agree upon however were more complex issues such as the potential tax rates and the amount of licenses that would be issued.

It has always been our position that a cap on the number of licenses is unfair and encourages a corrupt application process, where those with connections seem to come out on top.  There is no logical reason to place a limit on the number of recreational licenses, just as there is no reason to limit medical grow and dispense licenses.  The state could easily develop a strict and well-funded regulatory arm for recreational marijuana, and all qualified applicants should be permitted to engage in the marijuana business provided they could adhere to the regulations.  Arguments that without license caps recreational marijuana stores could then line the streets of every neighborhood are naïve and unfounded.  It is a great expense and a time-consuming endeavor to open a dispensary, and no investor would make this commitment only to fail due to an overly saturated market.

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weed4-300x194Two marijuana legalization bills are scheduled to be debated by lawmakers in Annapolis in the coming weeks, and there is an outside chance we could see legalization at least a year sooner than once thought.  The bill we will discuss in the article is currently scheduled for debate in the Senate during the first week in March.  Senate Bill 708 is a lengthy one, with tons of provisions that would only apply to government agencies and those who may become involved in the marijuana business.  The wordy bill boils down to a few major points for actual consumers and all other concerned citizens in the state of Maryland.  First off, the bill would decriminalize the personal use of marijuana.  You can’t start selling it to consumers if it’s still illegal, so the lawmakers in this bill have selected 4 ounces of flower cannabis, 15 grams of concentrates and 6 plants as their arbitrary cut off number.  These limits are more generous than previous attempts at legalization, but still maintain an aura of control.  It’s almost as if the government is still in our ears saying “alright that’s enough, take it down a notch”.   A person would be able to walk around with a quarter pound of pot, but anymore would be a no no.

There are other provisions in the bill as well that would apply to the average Marylander, including easy access to expunge prior marijuana cases and strict measures to assure that individuals who are under the age of 21 are not being provided marijuana.  Homeowners and renters would also be permitted to grow their own marijuana provided there are certain safety measures in place to assure the grow operation is both private and secure.  Without a doubt the most compelling parts of the wordy bill are the provisions that discuss the retail sale of marijuana.  The bill does not simply come out and say marijuana will be legalized, but rather inconspicuously creates the existence of marijuana retailers.  These “retailers” are defined as an entity licensed to purchase cannabis from a grower and sell it to a consumer.  Consumers are not patients, so this is an entirely different animal than medical cannabis.  This is the legalized sale of marijuana for recreational use, and it’s coming sooner rather than later.

After the bombshell about establishing marijuana retailers, the bill goes on and on about the tax provisions and the social equity policies designed to promote and support small business owners.  The tax issue is always a back and forth debate, but in the end the tax number will likely keep the price of retail marijuana just under the price on the street.  After all, it makes no sense to price retailers out of the market, especially when a widely stated goal of legalization is to end the illicit sale of pot.  Anyone who is interested in entering the market may be wise to read the bill, but all others should probably wait until the bill progresses further down the legislative process.  There are bound to be more changes on the horizon.  The Blog will continue to follow marijuana legalization efforts in Maryland and Florida, and will post a follow up article as more news comes out of Annapolis.  If you have been charged with a drug offense such as possession not marijuana, possession with intent to distribute, manufacturing or any other offense contact criminal defense lawyer Benjamin Herbst anytime for a free consultation.  Benjamin specializes in drug charges, gun charges, domestic violence defense, theft, robbery and DUI, and is available anytime at 410-207-2598.  Benjamin is also an experienced South Florida criminal defense lawyer who represents clients in criminal and personal injury cases such as weapons crimes, drug offenses and car accident cases in all state jurisdictions from Miami to Port St. Lucie.  Contact Benjamin at 954-543-0305 for a free consultation about your Florida case.

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marijuana-1281540_1280-300x225While 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.

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