Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws Explained
The laws regarding medicinal marijuana are constantly changing. Marijuana has already been decriminalized in several states across the U.S., with more states considering decriminalization. However, the laws related to medicinal and personal use of marijuana are more complicated than most realize. At Houlon Berman, we stay current on all legislative changes and help our clients understand their legal rights.
With over forty years of experience and a reputation for client satisfaction and personalized service, we can provide you with the best legal advice and representation in Maryland.
History of Maryland Marijuana Decriminalization
Marijuana was completely illegal in the state of Maryland until 2012, when state legislators passed laws allowing citizens to use marijuana medicinally under certain circumstances specifically described in the law.
Unfortunately, the law is very complicated and has many provisions, which can be challenging to interpret. Possession of medicinal marijuana is both a defense and a sentencing mitigator under the current law. In April 2014, Maryland lawmakers signed two more bills into law making possession of ten grams or less of marijuana a civil infraction.
Current Marijuana Laws in Maryland
Penalties for marijuana possession for personal usage (non-medicinal), felony offenses, and possession of drug paraphernalia are as follows.
As of October 1, 2014, possession of less than ten grams of marijuana was downgraded to a civil offense punishable by a fine of up to $100 for a first offense, $250 for a second offense, and $500 for subsequent offenses.Those with three or more offenses, as well as citizens under 21 years of age, are legally required to be assessed for substance abuse disorders and attend drug education classes. Individuals may not use the medical marijuana defense if they are caught in public with marijuana or in possession of more than one gram of marijuana.
Possession of ten grams of marijuana or more is a misdemeanor offense carrying up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Distribution or possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute is still a felony offense punishable by up to five years in prison and a $15,000 fine. Possession of more than 50 pounds of marijuana with the intent to distribute is punishable by 20-40 years incarceration and a fine of $1,000,000 and can include a mandatory minimum jail sentence.
The trafficking of 5 – 45 kilograms of marijuana is considered a felony, with penalties ranging from 10 – 20 years in jail and $10,000 – $50,000 in fines.
The possession of marijuana paraphernalia has not yet been decriminalized and is still punishable by a $500 fine. It is anticipated that this law will be changed by the Maryland legislature in the 2015 session.
Who Can Use Marijuana in Maryland?
Medicinal marijuana use is permissible in Maryland where there is medical necessity brought about by a chronic or debilitating medical condition or disease resistant to conventional medicine and only where there is a documented and bona fide physician-patient relationship.
If a medicinal marijuana defense is to be presented at trial, the Defendant must provide notice of intent to pursue the defense and the necessary documentation in advance of the trial date in accordance with the Maryland Rules of Discovery. The requirements for proving medical marijuana mitigation at sentencing are similar, but no advance notice is required.
The attorneys at Houlon Berman have prepared and presented many successful medical marijuana defenses and mitigation.
Federal vs. State Law
According to the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance, or a substance with a high risk of dependency and no accredited medical use. However, in August 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice announced an update to its marijuana enforcement policy as Colorado and Washington officially legalized the drug.
According to this new policy, the U.S. Department of Justice would not challenge the decision to legalize marijuana under the condition that the states strictly enforce marijuana usage. However, the Federal Government reserves the right to challenge state policy at any point.
Moreover, Federal and State prosecuting authorities frequently prosecute high level marijuana distribution and conspiracy to distribute marijuana. It is still illegal to sell marijuana in Maryland, leaving open the question of how a person who has a legitimate medical need might ever legally obtain marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Contact Houlon Berman
If you have questions regarding Maryland’s medical marijuana laws, please reach out to us. We can help you navigate this confusing legal landscape.
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