As of midnight on January 1, possession of more than 10 grams of marijuana is no longer a crime in Maryland, and more changes to the state’s pot laws are in store for the rest of 2023. Back in 2014 when Marijuana possession was first decriminalized there was much debate of the threshold amount. Some lawmakers argued for an ounce or more, while others fought for lower limits as a compromise for any decriminalization in the first place. As compromises typically go, many lawmakers left Annapolis wishing the decriminalization limit was different, but satisfied they got somewhere. There was never any real logic to the arbitrary limit of 10 grams, and despite repeated efforts to change the number, it stuck for more than 6 years. The 10-gram limit was always a placeholder, as recreational marijuana was a foregone conclusion. It seemed as if lawmakers put off raising the 10-gram limit because they knew its days were numbered by the implementation of a much larger policy change. Well, now that change is upon us, and it will soon be perfectly legal for an adult over the age of 21 to walk around with a bag of pot. But until that day arrives on July 1 when the trees are in full bloom and the sun is hot, adults without medical cards will still have to think twice about transporting their stash.
Marijuana possession for adults over the age of 21 was virtually erased from the books as a criminal offense in Maryland when the ball dropped this past Saturday. We say virtually because possession of more than 2.5 ounces is still a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to 6 months in jail. On the other hand, most people caught with more than 2.5 ounces will likely be charged with possession with intent to distribute or PWID as commonly called in the courts. PWID marijuana now a misdemeanor punishable by up to 3 years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Maryland law 5-602(b) states that “possession of the civil use amount of cannabis or the personal use amount of cannabis without other evidence of an intent to distribute or dispense does not constitute a violation [of the possession with intent to distribute law]”. This is part of the reason why the legislature decided on the 2.5-ounce threshold, and why the 10-gram threshold was mostly illogical. While there are some exceptions, lawful marijuana users typically to do not carry around more than 2.5 ounces of marijuana, an amount roughly the most a typical sandwich bag can hold. Lawmakers finally agreed to not subject marijuana users to criminal punishment, which was certainly not the case with the 10-gram limit. Recreational pot smokers routinely carry more than 10 grams of marijuana, as it is commonly purchased in half ounces or ounces (13 and 26 grams respectively). We applaud the legislature for raising the possession limits, though it still came a few years too late for some. Fortunately, there is now hope for all of those individuals charged and convicted with past possession of marijuana offenses in state court.
Another component of the new law that went into effect on January 1 is a provision entitling anyone with a marijuana possession conviction to have that conviction expunged. In addition, all marijuana possession convictions must be removed from public record by 2024. Gone are the days when a pot conviction will cost someone a job or admission into a school or program. The specific components of the temporary possession law state that a person who possesses up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana could face a civil fine of up to $100. Anyone caught with more than 1.5 ounces but less than 2.5 ounces faces a $200 civil fine, and as mentioned before, possession over 2.5 ounces is a crime punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. It is still a crime for young adults and juveniles to possess marijuana in Maryland, so if your child has been charged it is important to fight the case and to contact a lawyer.