Will Maryland be the next state to legalize recreation marijuana?

Legislation is inching its way forward through the Maryland General Assembly that could make Maryland the next state to allow recreational use of marijuana.

Technically, medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 2013, but access to the drug has yet to become a reality. Ongoing litigation from companies that were denied growing licenses and other problems have stalled the process of getting the drug into patients’ hands.

If some state lawmakers have their way, the newest legislation would also allow merchants (once the doors to the first dispensaries finally open) to sell an ounce of marijuana and a limited amount of cannabis-infused items, like edibles and lotions, to any adult over the age of 21 with or without a medical need.

The changes in the law have been met with general approval from Maryland residents. Polls found that 58 percent of residents favor the legalization of the drug for recreational use.

Possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana was already decriminalized in 2014 — turning what was once a crime punishable by jail time into a civil offense, similar to a traffic ticket. A first offense is now punishable by a fine of no more than $100. Lawmakers have already acknowledged that the previous laws, born out of the “war on drugs” era, disproportionately affected black communities and put far too many young people into the criminal justice system.

Another important feature of the new bill that’s moving through the Assembly is the automatic expungement of criminal records for people who were previously convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana. Exactly how the process would work hasn’t been clarified, but that could give some people a much-needed chance at improvement in their lives. Having a criminal record for drug possession is often a barrier to people who are seeking regular employment, employment in specific industries, housing, loans and admission into colleges or universities.

It’s important to keep in mind that even with all the changes, possession of larger amounts of marijuana can still net you a criminal charge, and the drug still remains illegal under federal law — which means you may face federal charges even if the state isn’t interested in prosecuting you. If you’re facing a drug possession charge of any kind, talk with an attorney right away.

Source: The Diamondback, “Democratic Maryland lawmakers are fighting to legalize recreational marijuana,” accessed March 09, 2017

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