Is Fully Legal Marijuana Coming to Maryland?

In the past few years, we have written about the changes in Maryland’s criminal laws that have slowly decriminalized certain marijuana-related crimes. The push in Maryland, and nationally, is towards less harsh penalties for these crimes, and now Maryland may be on board to join the states that have made marijuana completely legal.

Lawmakers to Discuss Changes

State lawmakers are discussing letting voters decide in 2018 whether marijuana should be legal, by putting a legalization measure on the ballot that would change Maryland’s constitution. The proposal is to allow marijuana to be sold, regulated, and taxed the same way that alcohol is currently.

The Governor has not taken a position on the measure, and some believe that putting legalization on the ballot may just be a political move to get Democrats to the polls in an attempt to remove the Republican Governor. Despite seemingly large-scale support in the general public—as of October, one poll showed that 61% of Maryland’s population supported legalization–the general assembly has in the past failed to pass marijuana legalization measures. A constitutional amendment would actually require a larger portion of the assembly to vote for it than those previous proposals, which did not get enough support to pass.

Still, some legislators who voted against legalizing marijuana themselves may not be against allowing voters to determine whether to legalize it. Supporters cite the tax revenue that legalized pot has generated in other states, and some lawmakers have pledged to give tax dollars generated from marijuana to the educational system.

Currently, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington have legalized pot, with California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada are set to legalize it in November. Unlike many of those states, getting an initiative on the ballot requires the assembly’s approval—it cannot be put on by acquiring petitions from the general public.

Feds May Intervene

But despite the tide in favor of legalization, uncertainty still remains in all states that have legalized marijuana. Federal laws still classify marijuana as a schedule I narcotic, and changing state laws cannot change federal laws or the federal government’s authority to enforce laws that restrict or criminalize possession or use of marijuana. In fact, anybody who invests in or does business with those who deal in marijuana may still be in violation of federal anti-money laundering laws.

Until now, the Attorney General’s office has looked the other way in states that have legalized marijuana, preferring to allow the citizens of each state to dictate their own policies and laws. With a new administration in Washington, it is not yet clear whether that policy will continue. Should the U.S. Attorney General determine that it is unfair to prosecute those in states where marijuana is legal differently than those who live in states where it is not, state laws may not make much of a difference when it comes to legalized pot.

If you are arrested or charged with a drug or marijuana-related crime, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss your case.