By / May 9, 2023

Maryland Legalizes the Sale of Cannabis

The governor of Maryland has signed a bill to regulate cannabis sales, paving the way for state-wide legalization. The new law allows legal recreational sales in Maryland starting July 1. The law also includes protections for minority entrepreneurs and will allow existing growers, processors, and dispensaries to convert to a hybrid license. 

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Maryland Governor Making a Statement With Law

During the signing ceremony, the Maryland governor stated that the law “will ensure that the deployment of recreational cannabis in our state promotes opportunities in an equitable manner.”

“The criminalization of cannabis has deeply harmed low-income communities and communities of color,” he said. “We want to ensure that the legalization of cannabis uplifts these communities in a meaningful way.”

Lawmakers Work Quickly to Introduce Cannabis Bill

Maryland state lawmakers worked quickly to pass the cannabis regulation legislation before the voter-approved legalization law went into effect in July.

Sales can begin as soon as July 1 at current medical cannabis dispensaries.

Legal Cannabis Sales in Maryland: An Outline

Here are the main points of the Maryland cannabis regulation, passed by lawmakers under the names SB 516 and HB 556:

  • Cannabis sales in Maryland will be taxed at 9%. Sales of cannabis for medical purposes will be exempt from this tax.
  • 35% of taxes will be allocated to a Community Reinvestment Fund, counties, a public health fund for cannabis, and a cannabis business assistance fund.
  • A new independent administration, the Maryland Cannabis Administration, will be responsible for regulating the program.
  • Existing medical cannabis dispensaries in Maryland will be converted to dual licenses when legalization takes effect on July 1 if they have paid a fee.
  • Regulators will have to start approving additional cannabis operating licenses by July 1, 2024.
  • Ultimately, the number of licenses will be limited to 300 dispensaries, 100 processing businesses, and 75 cultivators. For smaller micro-businesses, the limit will be ten dispensaries, 100 processors, and 100 cultivators.
  • Equity applicants must be 65% owned by individuals who have lived in disproportionately impacted areas for at least five of the past ten years, attended public school in such an area for at least five years, or meet other criteria based on a study of disparities.
  • A capital access program will be created under the Maryland State Department of Commerce to promote industrial opportunities for equity applicants and provide low-interest loans.
  • The legislation will end the sale of delta-8 products from cannabis and require that any psychoactive cannabis product be sold through licensed cannabis businesses.
  • Patients in Maryland consuming cannabis for medical purposes will be allowed to grow up to four plants for personal use instead of two under the current law.
  • Smoking will be prohibited inside on-site consumption establishments in Maryland, but it will be allowed outside licensed establishments.
  • Maryland Regulators will have to establish rules for online cannabis sales by July 2025.

Maryland Cannabis Activists Have Reservations About Limitations

Don Murphy, a former Republican lawmaker from Baltimore County, sponsored legislation in 2003 that opened a loophole for people arrested in Maryland for cannabis possession to argue that it was for medical purposes. At the time, he was not in support of full cannabis legalization, but his stance changed over the years. Today, he is in full support of cannabis legalization.

However, when asked about the new cannabis law in Maryland, Murphy said it doesn’t do enough to help protect minority owners. Speaking on the matter, he said, “Am I thrilled with the way this bill turned out? Not really. If I got my way, there would be no limits on the number of dispensaries or the number of producers or processors. Let the market decide. If you want equity applicants to benefit, they have to get in the game. When you limit the number of people who can get in the game, they’re just always going to be underrepresented.”

(Featured image by RDNE Stock project via Pexels)

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