A majority of Marylanders voted Tuesday to legalize recreational marijuana in the state, according to an Associated Press projection. Maryland will now join more than a dozen other U.S. states that have legalized recreational marijuana.
Marylanders ages 21 and over will be able to possess up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana starting in July 2023.
During the six-month transition period between Jan. 1, 2023, and July 2023 when marijuana will be fully legalized, those in possession of fewer than 1.5 ounces of marijuana will face a fine of up to $100.
Lawmakers in the Maryland General Assembly approved legislation earlier this year that sets up preliminary guidelines for regulating the state’s marijuana industry. The referendum’s companion legislation will remove criminal penalties associated with possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana starting in July 2023 — replacing them with civil citations. Existing laws on possession will still apply to Marylanders who have more than 2.5 ounces of marijuana.
The law also creates a process for the expungement of past marijuana possession convictions – a process in which the legal record of an arrest or a criminal conviction is “forgotten.”
A person who was convicted of marijuana possession can file a petition to expunge it beginning Jan. 1, 2023, as long as they have completed their sentence and probation. By July 2024, the Maryland corrections department will be required to expunge all charges in cases that occurred before July 1, 2023, where marijuana possession is the only legal violation.
The law also allows for resentencing of those convicted of marijuana charges beginning on Jan. 1, 2023. Anyone in jail for marijuana-related convictions would be eligible to apply for resentencing. If the applicant is not serving another sentence, Maryland courts will now be required to resentence the person to time served – the equivalent of a term that has been completely satisfied by the defendant’s previous time in jail.
Despite Tuesday’s successful legalization, widespread access to recreational marijuana dispensaries in Maryland may take some time. The referendum’s companion bill leaves measures of licensing and taxation for the state’s marijuana industry up to the General Assembly to decide in their 2023 legislative session.
The General Assembly will reconvene in January to establish licensing laws for growing, dispensing, testing and transporting marijuana, state Sen. Brian Feldman (D-Montgomery) told The Diamondback in September.
Before Tuesday’s midterm elections, 19 states, as well as Washington, D.C., had fully legalized marijuana. Maryland and 36 other states have previously legalized medical marijuana, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.Arkansas, Maryland, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota all had marijuana questions on voter ballots Tuesday.