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Election 2022: Maryland marijuana legalization guide

Published on September 8, 2022

Everything you need to know about Question 4

Question 4: What’s at stake

The full Question 4 measure, which will appear on Maryland’s statewide Nov. 8 ballot, asks voters: “Do you favor the legalization of the use of cannabis by an individual who is at least 21 years of age on or after July 1, 2023, in the State of Maryland?”

In the spring of 2022, Maryland state lawmakers passed House Bill 1, which serves primarily to put the question of adult-use legalization before voters on this fall’s Nov. 8 ballot. Lawmakers additionally passed a companion bill, House Bill 837, that provides limited framework for an adult-use program, should Maryland voters approve legalization. Outgoing Governor Larry Hogan (R) has signaled he won’t obstruct an affirmative vote for legal cannabis.

Read the two-page House Bill 1 here: House Bill 1

Read the 55-page House Bill 837 here: HB 837

Is this medical or adult use legalization?

Adult use (recreational). Marijuana would be legal for all adults age 21 and older.

What’s the current law?

Medical marijuana is legal for medical patients in Maryland.

In 2013, then-Governor Martin O’Malley (D) signed a medical marijuana legalization bill. The first licensed dispensaries opened in 2017.

Also in 2013, Maryland lawmakers voted to decriminalize the possession of up to 10 grams of cannabis. The charge remains punishable by no more than a $100 fine. 

In 2016, the Maryland General Assembly overrode a veto by Governor Hogan to decriminalize possession of cannabis paraphernalia and public consumption. The latter remains punishable by a $500 fine.

What the constitutional amendment would do

If Question 4 passes at the ballot, marijuana possession for adults will become legal on July 1, 2023. Additionally, a successful vote will require lawmakers to implement a regulatory and licensing framework for the program, via separate legislation.

House Bill 837 does lay out a few basic guidelines for the program: Adults would be able to purchase and possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis. Possession of 1.5 ounces to 2.5 ounces would be subject only to a fine, and not be considered a criminal offense.

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Adults would be able to grow two cannabis plants at home.

The state would automatically expunge the records of individuals convicted of crimes considered legal by HB 837.

Individuals previously charged with intent to distribute can petition for expungement after serving three years of their sentence.

Maryland will vote on legal cannabis in November

If it passes, when can adults legally possess marijuana?

If voters approve the legalization amendment, it will not take effect immediately: Starting January 1, 2023, the possession of up to 2.5 ounces would be considered a civil offense. Full legalization wouldn’t begin until July 1, 2023…a full seven months after the vote.

When could I start growing my own?

Adults can begin growing cannabis at home on July 1, 2023.

Will it pass? Here’s what the latest polls say

According to a Goucher College poll released in March 2022, 62% of Maryland voters support legalization.

Legalization initiative sponsors

white man in blue button down
Meet Delegate Luke Clippinger, sponsor of Maryland’s legalization bills. (Courtesy of Delegate Clippinger)

Delegate Luke Clippinger (D) sponsored HB 837 in the Maryland House, as well as its companion bill, HB1. Senator Brian Feldman (D) sponsored the Senate version of HB 837: Senate Bill 833. While he is not a sponsor of the bill, Outgoing governor Larry Hogan (R) has signaled he won’t stand in the way of an affirmative vote.

HB 1 passed 94-39 in the Maryland House of Delegates, and 29 -17 in the Maryland Senate, on final reading.

HB 837 passed 89-41 in the Maryland House of Delegates, and 30-15 in the Maryland Senate, on final reading. 

Legalization initiative opponents

Since the measure passed the state House and Senate, no individuals or organizations have publicly announced strong opposition to it.

Would cannabis stores be licensed?

It’s fair to assume that stores will require licenses. But neither bill contains language regarding details of licensure; that will come with subsequent legislation.

Any equity or small-business licenses?

Yes. HB 837 mandates the creation of a Cannabis Assistance Fund, using money from the state budget, to provide grants, loans, and license application assistance to small businesses, women-owned businesses, and minority-owned businesses.

How many weed stores will be allowed?

Neither bill contains language regarding caps on stores. But subsequent legislation will likely lay out any potential language around licensing restrictions.

Could local towns or counties ban stores?

Neither bill contains language regarding an opt-out measure for towns and counties.

Would medical marijuana patients be protected?

Neither bill provides explicit protections for medical patients.

Would marijuana be taxed?

It’s a safe bet that subsequent legislation would tax marijuana. But, neither HB1 nor HB 837 includes language around taxation.

Where would marijuana tax revenue go?

HB 837 only makes requirements for a portion of the revenue: 30% of sales tax revenue and licensing fees must be used to establish a Community Reinvestment and Repair Fund. Lawmakers will decide how to allocate the other 70% of revenue in their subsequent legislation,

What about the expungement process?

HB 837 would provide automatic expungement for individuals charged solely with possession of cannabis. The bill requires the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to expunge the records by July 2024.

Individuals previously charged with intent to distribute can petition for expungement after serving three years of their sentence.

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Max Savage Levenson
Max Savage Levenson
Max Savage Levenson likely has the lowest cannabis tolerance of any writer on the cannabis beat. He also writes about music for Pitchfork, Bandcamp and other bespectacled folk. He co-hosts The Hash podcast. His dream interview is Tyler the Creator.
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