Explore how cannabis legalization in Maryland came to pass, and what it means for medical cannabis users and the general public.

A History of Cannabis Legalization in Maryland

While the state of Maryland legalized medical cannabis in 2014, it wasn’t until July of 2023 that the state’s new law legalizing adult-use (recreational) cannabis went into effect. 

Like many states, Maryland's path to legalization began with a growing recognition of the need to decriminalize cannabis, followed by the establishment of a medical marijuana registration program, and finally, a state referendum that led to new legislation that legalizes adult use and possession of cannabis.

Let’s dive into Maryland’s journey to become the 20th state in the U.S. to legalize cannabis.

Is Cannabis Legal in Maryland?

Yes, cannabis possession and use became legal in Maryland on July 1, 2023 for adults (age 21 and older). As part of the new law, adults in Maryland are also allowed to grow up to two cannabis plants in their own home.

The Cannabis Reform Act, which legalized cannabis in Maryland, established “personal use” limits on the amount of cannabis an adult can legally possess (up to 1.5 ounces cannabis, up to 12 grams concentrated cannabis, or edible cannabis products containing up to 750 mg strength THC, and up to 2 cannabis plants).

While possession is legal in Maryland, the sale of cannabis by individuals is still illegal. Only licensed businesses can sell cannabis. Previously-established medical cannabis businesses, like SunMed, were given the chance to apply for a dual license, which is why we can now provide our high quality, sun grown cannabis for both medicinal and recreational adult-use in Maryland.

 Close up of cannabis leaf as it grows with a hand reaching out to it

A Timeline of Cannabis Legalization in Maryland

While the story of legalization in Maryland can be traced through the series of key bills that eventually legalized cannabis in 2023, an important precursor to this legislative history is the conversation around decriminalization sparked by Mayor Kurt Schmoke of Baltimore.

Back in 1988, Mayor Schmoke, Baltimore’s first elected Black mayor, advocated for decriminalization as an alternative to what he saw as the failed War on Drugs. At the time, his remarks prompted national outrage. Despite the unpopularity of his ideas back then, Schmoke continued to press other leaders to see how criminalization led to more problems than it solved, including mass incarceration.

Now, more than thirty years later, the state legislature of Maryland has made Schmoke’s trailblazing ideas a reality.

 Rows of cannabis growing in the SunMed Greenhouse

2003: Maximum Fine for Pain Relief

In May of 2003, proponents of decriminalization of cannabis in Maryland won their first major victory when Governor Bob Ehrlich signed a bill instituting a maximum fine of $100 for people using cannabis for pain relief. While this was an important first step in the path toward a medical cannabis program, and later, full legalization, this bill did not protect medical cannabis users from arrest.

2014-2017: Medical Cannabis Program Established

In June 2014, Governor Martin O’Malley signed HB881 into law, which legalized medical cannabis and established the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC) to oversee the production and distribution of medical cannabis. In 2017, MMCC began regulating the sale of medical cannabis to registered patients. 

2014: Decriminalization of Possession

In 2014, Governor O’Malley signed SB364, which decriminalized cannabis possession involving ten grams or less. The law took effect on October 1, 2014, making Maryland the 18th state to decriminalize minor possession of cannabis to a civil (non-arrestable) offense.

2016: Paraphernalia is Permitted

In 2016, SB517 decriminalized the possession of paraphernalia such as rolling papers, pipes, and bongs. This bill also decriminalized smoking in public, reclassifying both possession of paraphernalia and smoking in public as civil, rather than criminal, offenses. Under this law, people could be fined for possession of paraphernalia or smoking in public, but they could no longer be arrested.

2019: Pacheco v. State

In August of 2019, the Court of Appeals of Maryland delivered an important decision regarding the scope of law enforcement in the post-decriminalization era.

In Pacheco v. State of Maryland, the court ruled that possession of less than ten grams of cannabis, along with the odor of burnt marijuana, does not give police probable cause to arrest and search a person. 

2023: Adult Use Cannabis in Maryland

In 2019, the Marijuana Legalization Workgroup, began considering a legislative path forward for adult-use legalization of cannabis. The first bill to attempt legalization (HB32) was introduced by Delegate Jazz Lewis in 2021, but this bill never made it out of committee.

In 2022, House Delegate and Chairman of the Judiciary Committee Luke Clippinger introduced a measure to put the decision of legalization directly to the voters on the general election ballot as HB1. In November 2022, Maryland voters passed the referendum to legalize cannabis. 

In spring 2023, the Maryland Legislature passed the Cannabis Reform Act (HB556/SB516). When Governor Wes Moore signed the bill on May 3, 2023, the Cannabis Reform Act became law, legalizing adult use of cannabis in the state as of July 1, 2023.

 SunMed's Greenhouse

FAQs about Cannabis Legalization in Maryland

While adult-use cannabis became legal in Maryland in July 2023, you may still have some questions about what this really means. Read on for our answers to some commonly asked questions about cannabis legalization in Maryland. 

What Is Considered “Personal Use” Possession? 

“Personal Use” possession is the state’s guidelines for how much cannabis an adult can legally possess in Maryland.

Under the Cannabis Reform Act, adults 21+ are allowed to possess the following amounts of cannabis in Maryland:

  • Up to 1.5 ounces cannabis flower

  • Up to 12 grams of concentrated cannabis (vape products)

  • Or a total amount of edible cannabis containing up to 750 mg strength THC

These amounts are legally defined as “personal use” possession.

People under 21 cannot legally possess cannabis and could be fined up to $100 for personal use possession, and people over 21 can face fines for possessing amounts over the “personal use” thresholds listed above.

Maryland permits up to two cannabis plants per household, regardless of the number of individuals in the house and as long as they remain out of public view.

Can You Smoke in Public in Maryland?

Smoking in public places such as streets, sidewalks, public transportation, and parks is not allowed under Maryland law. 

However, the law does allow for adults to smoke in licensed on-site consumption establishments. These establishments have to be approved by local zoning laws, and can include smoking, vaping, and consumption of edible cannabis. Smoking indoors is still prohibited, so be ready to hang out on the patio when you find your favorite establishment.

Can You Get a DUI for Driving High? 

Yes, you can get a DUI for impaired driving due to cannabis use. Police officers can make a cannabis DUI arrest if they observe impairment using a standard field sobriety test.

The Maryland Cannabis Administration recommends waiting at least six hours after using cannabis to drive to ensure your reaction time and ability to concentrate are not impaired when you get behind the wheel.

Sun Grown Maryland Cannabis

At SunMed, we harness the power of the sun to produce high quality cannabis at our Dutch-style greenhouse in Cecil County. As a result of our unique farming process, we offer some of the best sun grown cannabis in the state of Maryland for both medical and recreational use. Find a dispensary near you to experience SunMed’s sun grown goodness for yourself.