In case you hadn’t heard, the Maryland General Assembly made major changes to the state’s marijuana laws. We briefly discussed them here. Now your Baltimore Marijuana lawyers want to review both the decriminalization (not legalization) and the medical marijuana program. We’re going to do our best to break these two substantive changes in the law into three posts, but most likely we will barely scratch the surface and won’t have all the answers until long after October 1, 2014 (when the new laws go into effect). For part 1, we will review where the law was, where the law is, and where the law is going. Part 2 will discuss the practical implications of a civil citation for 10 grams of marijuana. Part 3 will discuss medical marijuana, dispensaries, and a marijuana card. Without further ado:
Busted 2 years ago or longer
Marijuana possession in Maryland has, for many years, been a crime punishable by 1 year in prison and/or a $2500 fine (2 years for subsequent offenders). If you were caught with marijuana paraphernalia like a glass smoking device, your punishment is a $500 fine (and 2 years jail for subsequent offenders). The felony crimes of Distribution and Possession with the intent to distribute carried 5 years for a first offense. Marijuana possession, even if for a legitimate medical necessity, was a crime. This was the law for decades in Maryland, until a few years back when the big push for decriminalization started growing. In 2012 a major set of legislation was passed that dramatically changed these laws.
Baltimore Marijuana Lawyer: Busted between 2 years ago until October 1, 2014
In 2012, major legislation shifted the punishment for possession of marijuana of less than 10 grams and also created an affirmative defense of individuals who suffer from chronic maladies and have “doctor’s permission” to utilize marijuana for bona fide medical reasons. Possession of 10 grams or less now only carries a punishment of 90 days jail and/or a $500 fine. Any jail sentence is immediately appealable like new (de novo) to the Circuit Court.
Baltimore Marijuana Lawyer: Busted after October 1, 2014
On April 7, 2014, the Maryland General Assembly, on the last day of session and with a large turn of events, voted to decriminalize possession less than 10 grams and dramatically change the State’s medical marijuana program. This decriminalization goes into effect on October 1, 2014. Any police office who has probable cause to believe that a person is in possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana shall issue a civil citation. The first offense carries $100 fine, subsequent offenses carry larger fines and eventually one could land in a DHMH drug rehab program mandated by the law. The medical marijuana program is also overhauled. 15 growers will be licensed in the first year and distributors and dispensers will also be licensed. Individuals will be able to obtain a license, like a fishing or driver’s license to get marijuana from the dispensaries. This will be similar to California, but with more state oversight and control.
Baltimore Marijuana Lawyer: Decriminalization- What does that mean?
Many people I have seen have mistakenly said that marijuana is now legal in Maryland. That’s not true. It has been decriminalized, meaning that possession of less than 10 grams is no longer a crime. Possession of more than 10 grams is still a crime that carries 1 year in jail and a $2500 fine. Also possession of paraphernalia for marijuana is still a crime punishable by a $500 fine for a first offense and 2 years in jail for a repeat offense. YES: you can go to jail for rolling papers, but not weed! Make sense? NO, your Baltimore Marijuana Lawyer doesn’t think so.
Baltimore Marijuana Lawyer: Bottom Line
Right now there are plenty of questions:
- Constitutionally, there is no search incident to “citation” for any cit-able and non-arrest-able offense. Will officers keep searching people after discovering 10 grams or less of marijuana?
- How will officers know the difference between more than or less than 10 grams?
- Will paraphernalia still be prosecuted? Do the doctrines of merger and lenity require that paraphernalia crimes be cited only?
- How will the law work in “drug free” school zones?
- Will drug dogs need new jobs?
- What will happen to pending cases? Does the rule of lenity require that pending cases be thrown out and recharged?
- Will employers drug test more frequently? Will Marijuana use be prohibited by “drug free” workplaces?
In part 2, we’ll discuss some of the practical marijuana law questions. Unfortunately we won’t be able to provide many answers until late next year when appeals and local court have an opportunity to digest and interpret these rule changes. In the meantime, don’t hesitate to contact your Baltimore Marijuana Lawyer if you find yourself getting smoked out of the criminal justice system!
Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office appears to be placing all Marijuana less than 10g on the Stet docket. Harford County State’s Attorney’s Office is not, but is doing so on a case-by-case basis.
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