Discussion: Maryland Marijuana Legislation

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MarijuanaLeaf650How would you craft Maryland marijuana legislation? This article is designed to stimulate discussion and proposals as we look forward to the 2015 General Assembly session.

The ground rules are simple: using the 2014 ‘legalize, tax and regulate’ bill as a starting point to offer additions or deletions, or supply your own bullet point proposal, identify the outlines of your preferred marijuana legislation for Maryland in 2015. If you like, you can make a distinction between your preferred optimal legislation and what you think might pass in Maryland’s political environment. Provide your suggestions in the comments section below.

Maryland Tax And Regulate Bill Summary-Proposed bill in 2014 (courtesy of the Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland):

The bill would allow adults 21+ to:
• Possess up to an ounce of marijuana.
• Possess up to five grams of hash, 16 ounces of marijuana infused in solid
form, or 72 ounces of marijuana infused in liquid form.
• Grow up to six plants (three of which could be mature) and possess all of the
marijuana produced by those plants.
• Give away up to an ounce to other adults and/or up to three seedlings.
• Possess, produce, and sell paraphernalia.
• Sell marijuana seeds to marijuana cultivation facilities.
• Grow at the same location as up to four other adults.

Allows for four kinds of registered, regulated marijuana businesses:
• Retailers.
• Marijuana cultivation facilities.
• Marijuana product manufacturers (which could produce foods, salves, and
other products infused with marijuana).
• “Safety compliance facilities” (labs).

Retailers:
• Would be allowed to sell up to an ounce of marijuana to adults 21 and older.
• Could not also sell alcohol for on-premises consumption.
• Application fees: up to $5,000; initial fee $10,000; annual renewal fee $5,000
• One would be registered per every 20,000 residents per county, with a
minimum of two per county. Counties and cities could further restrict the
number as long as they did not de facto ban retailers.
• If more applicants apply than are allowed, the comptroller would consider
things like expertise, security plan, regulatory issues, and location.

Marijuana cultivation facilities:
• Would cultivate marijuana in secure facilities that only adults could enter.
• Application fees: up to $5,000; initial fee $10,000; annual renewal fee $5,000.
• At least 100 would be registered.

Marijuana product manufacturers:
• Would produce products infused with marijuana, such as foods and drinks.
• Application fees: up to $5,000; initial fee $5,000; annual renewal fee $5,000.

Safety compliance facilities:
• Would test marijuana for potency and contaminants.
• $5,000 application fee; $5,000 renewal fee every two years.
• At least 10 would be allowed initially.

Specific rules for marijuana businesses in the law:
• School buffer: 1,000-foot buffer for all of the business types.
• Safety insert: Inserts with the marijuana would include dangers and
recognizing problem use.
• Labels: Would include THC percent, produced-on dates, and a warning about
driving and minors’ use of marijuana.
• Transportation documentation is required for businesses.
• Cannot allow people under 21 to enter (with exceptions, such as for law
enforcement personnel).
• The comptroller may suspend/void registrations for multiple/serious violations.

Local regulation:
• Localities could regulate time, place, and manner and could restrict the
• Localities would have the opportunity to provide feedback on licensing, which
should be given substantial weight.

What is not allowed:
• Driving under the influence laws would be unchanged.
• Marijuana would not be allowed in prisons and jails.
• Landlords would be allowed to prohibit cultivation or smoking of marijuana
on their property.
• Employers would not have to allow marijuana use at work or allow people to
work under the influence of marijuana.

Prohibits smoking marijuana in public:
• Smoking in public is punishable by a fine of up to $100.

Penalties for minors:
• Marijuana use and possession would remain illegal for those under 21.
• Courts may order the minor to participate in a drug or alcohol education
program, or impose a civil fine of up to $100.

Using a false ID to buy marijuana:
• The penalty would be up to a $250 fine and/or up to 10 days in jail:
• A retailer is prohibited from selling to those under 21.
• A retailer, who checked ID and reasonably believed the ID was valid, if the
person presenting it was the person on the ID, has an affirmative defense
to the charge of selling to a minor.

Restrictions on personal grows (penalty up to 10 days, up to $1,000 fine):
• Must be cultivated on one’s own property or with the consent of owner.
• If grown outdoors, marijuana cannot be visible to others and must be in a
fenced-in area.
• Must take reasonable precautions to keep plants away from those under 21.

The Comptroller would set rules, including:
• Application and tax collection procedures.
• The content of reports to be completed and procedures for audits and inspections.
• Safety label requirements.
• Security requirements.
• Environmental controls, including on pesticides.
• Restrictions on advertising, especially to minors, while complying with the
First Amendment.

Expungement:
• All Maryland agencies with records pertaining to marijuana arrests and
convictions must delete such records.

Taxation:
• $50/ounce tax at wholesale level, adjusted for inflation/deflation.
• The first $5 million in revenue would go to drug and alcohol treatment and education.

Allows the cultivation of industrial hemp:
• The Department of Agriculture would be responsible for regulating industrial hemp.

Creates an oversight commission:
• The members of the commission would include a delegate, a senator, a
physician, an economist, the comptroller, a safety compliance board member,
a sociologist, an individual with experience in marijuana policy, a First
Amendment attorney, a researcher, and a criminal justice expert.
• The commission’s duties would include making recommendations for
regulations, recommending the contents of warning labels and safety inserts,
proposing restrictions on advertising, and researching driving under the influence.

 

If any of the points in this outline are ambiguous or you wish to test your proposals against the exact language of the 2014 bill, here is a link to SB 658.