As the US House voted to advance the MORE Act today, Maryland lawmakers announced a triumph of their own: An amendment to legalize recreational cannabis will appear on the November ballot.
Furthermore, lawmakers also finalized HB 837, a separate framework bill for the program, should voters approve legalization in November. That bill will require the signature of Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.
HB 837 lays 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.
- 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.
- Furthermore, individuals previously charged with intent to distribute can petition for expungement after serving three years of their sentence.
If voters were to approve the legalization amendment, it wouldn’t 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.
Proponents of legalization have reason to be optimistic in Maryland: A 2021 poll showed that residents support adult-use legalization by a margin of two to one.
A social equity note attached to HB 837 argues that the bill would alleviate racially-disproportionate cannabis policing rates in Maryland.