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.
All the modifications in the cannabis laws would still only apply to adults 21 and over, and the cultivation section would have a variety of restrictions. Adults 21 and older could not be criminally charged for growing 6 or less pot plants in their own home as long as certain precautions are taken to prevent minors from accessing the plants. It would also be required for the plants to remain out of plain sight from any bystander at all times. If the plants could only be seen by aircraft or with binoculars then the law would be satisfied. If this bill were to pass the General Assembly it would likely be signed by the Governor, though there may have to be additional safeguards in place. That’s just the way politics is right now.
The Blog will continue to follow all the criminal law developments and will certainly post a follow up article about all things marijuana and firearms. On that note there are also bills popping up that aim to protect the gun rights of those with medical cannabis cards. Benjamin Herbst is a Maryland and Florida criminal defense lawyer who specializes in gun and drug cases in all state and federal jurisdictions. He has successfully defended hundreds of clients facing drug possession and marijuana, cocaine and heroin distribution charges, and also has extensive experience fighting charges for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. He also has a history of success in manufacturing/ cultivation of marijuana cases. The gun laws in Maryland are harsh and provide excessive punishments for those with criminal records who are caught with firearms. In addition, Maryland law enforcement officers charge numerous out of state defendants from North Carolina, Virginia, Florida and other states with more relaxed gun laws for illegally traveling with a firearm. Benjamin continues to fight for out of state defendants who are charged with firearm offenses in Maryland. Do not risk your freedom by waiting to contact a gun crime lawyer in Florida and in Maryland. Benjamin can be reached at 410-207-2598 or 954-543-0305.
House Bill 0032, mgaleg.gov.