Marijuana for medical purposes has been legal within the State of Maryland since 2014 though medical and recreational marijuana has been discussed since 2003. Qualified medical marijuana cardholders are still the only ones allowed to access and use marijuana products within the state, though complete legalization has been discussed in the Maryland and other states debating the issue.
The session for Maryland lawmaker’s that started in February of 2019 brought the medical use and recreational use of marijuana back to the table for discussion. There were multiple reasons for doing so. One of them was to discuss a lot of the national corporations coming in to control Maryland’s medical cannabis businesses. Currently, companies are not allowed to hold more than one license for each piece of cannabis business whether it is growing, processing or retail sales. There are additional problems within the current system in terms of keeping the business that is operating with legal licenses compliant with state regulations. Many of the companies are skirting rules by using a management agreement to operate outside of regulation without actually owning them. They are profiting by them without actually owning them. Future proposals are looking to strengthen the rules against corporations that are taking advantage of the marijuana business and those need to be strengthened before considering expanding the marijuana program.
In that same session, it is noted that while marijuana is not completely legal yet it is only a matter of time before the state overturns the laws against it. It was likened to prohibition being overturned in the early years of the 20th century. It is taking one illegal substance and making it legal just as it happened with alcohol. The issue of medical marijuana card in Maryland has been debated seriously since 2012 and Maryland is moving in the same direction as other states that have already legalized recreation marijuana. Several senators are moving to introduce a constitutional amendment to fully legalize marijuana that would be on the 2020 presidential a ballot. Legalization would remove penalties for being in possession of marijuana and fines would be eliminated.
Many people are debating what states will be next for legalization. So far, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York are projected to legalize recreational marijuana before the end of 2019. Maryland is thought to be amongst the group aiming for 2020 legalization along with Florida. One by one the states are taking the legalization into their own hands and are decriminalizing it. Already several states have full legalization and most of the rest of them are figuring out how to make not only medical marijuana legal but recreational marijuana as well without taking away the rights of those that choose to abstain from marijuana products completely.
The current Republican governor, Larry Hogan, believes that legalization is worth looking at and reviewing for future action, but that now is not the right time. First, the state needs to make sure that the current medical marijuana operations are running smoothly without the problems they are currently encountering with compliance coming up and the practices of outside companies. Even if it is passed before the 2020 elections there is no indication whether or not Governor Hogan would even sign and approve the bill. So far, several bills have been approved to allow for expansion of the medical cannabis program. The expansion allows for edible products and Baltimore passed its own regulations to no longer prosecute people for being in possession of marijuana regardless of any history associated with the possessor.
The last numbers reported for medical marijuana purchases brought the sales up to more than $100 million with over 83,000 patients approved to legally purchase the product. If legalization comes to the forefront that will mean an even larger influx of cash to the State of Maryland and greater access to medical cannabis as well as recreational cannabis to those that chose to partake in marijuana consumption. There is a ton of potential growth for the medical marijuana industry with these numbers and full legalization would cause them to more than triple. Already there are plans to expand the number of dispensaries in the state especially in Southern Maryland and the surrounding areas as it is poor community and expanding growing operations means more jobs and a rise in employment of the area.
Maryland will follow other states in legalization; it just is a matter of time. The state needs and wants to have better control over the current medical marijuana industries before they make any decisions on recreational use. Until then, more legalization bills will be floating around lawmakers and along with petitions to push for more changes. As with most of the states looking at legalization, it will take time and money. It probably will manage to make the 2020 election vote, but that means waiting until then to see it.