The times they are a-changin’. Across the country, states are reforming their laws on marijuana. Things are moving so fast, in fact, it’s a little hard to keep up when trying to answer the question, “Can I still get arrested for marijuana in Maryland?”
Can that joint in your shirt pocket still earn you some jail time? What about that cool bong shaped like R2D2 your cousin gave you last Christmas? Or those plants thriving under the grow lights in your back room? If your recreational pursuits involve any of these, you need the 411 on your 420, and a few other numbers, to keep yourself out of trouble.
Possession of Less than 10 Grams
Possession of even a tiny amount of marijuana in Maryland, until fairly recently, could get you branded a criminal, fined $500, and land you in jail for 90 days. In 2014, Maryland’s lawmakers had a change of heart and decriminalized possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana. (For the metric system-impaired, 10 grams is a little over one-third of an ounce.) You’ll still get hassled in the form of a “civil penalty” and pay fines of up to $100 for a first offense, $250 for a second offense, and $500 for subsequent offenses. So, while the buzzkill remains, the consequences aren’t so dire.
Possession of 10 grams to 50 pounds
Go over that 10-gram limit and you’ve entered misdemeanor territory, with punishments ranging up to a year in jail and $1,000 in fines. There’s some extra fun in store for third-time offenders and youngsters under 21 years of age. Those lucky folks win a clinical assessment to determine if they have a substance abuse disorder, plus admission to a drug education program. And you know what those under-21 kids will be whining when their driving privileges are suspended. Say it with me: “Dude, where’s my car?”
Sale of Marijuana
Start selling those primo buds you’ve been hydroponically raising with love and you could find yourself on a trip to more than White Castle. Intent to distribute the Holy Herb is a felony with penalties up to five years in prison and/or fines of $15,000. Drug kingpins get special treatment. (This is where lacking ambition would be a good thing.) Sales of 50 pounds or more can result in a felony conviction and 40 years wasted in prison—and not the good kind of wasted. There are plenty of extra enhancements, too, for such things as selling marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school or trafficking the drug while possessing a firearm.
Hate to break it to you, but that sweet bong you’re so fond of is still verboten. Maryland’s governor vetoed a bill that would have removed criminal penalties for marijuana paraphernalia.
What about Medical Marijuana?
Maryland’s medical cannabis program is still a work in progress. Business licenses for dispensaries and cultivation centers have been sanctioned but medical marijuana is not available yet. In the meantime, “medical necessity” can be used as a defense in a criminal trial. There are some pretty specific parameters that have to be met, so you’ll want an experienced attorney’s help with that one.
The Dope on Dope
We’ve come a long way since Reefer Madness was taken seriously. However, the highway to happy hour is littered with potential potholes. (See what I did there?) You probably won’t have to escape from Guantanamo like Harold and Kumar, but you’re still going to need a good criminal defense lawyer if you’re charged with more than a civil citation.