Lawmakers have finalized and passed legislation implementing a voter-approved referendum legalizing the production, sale, and use of cannabis.
House and Senate members had previously passed slightly different implementation bills: House Bill 556 and Senate Bill 516. The differences between those two bills have now been resolved.
The finalized legislation permits existing medical cannabis dispensaries to apply (for a fee) for dual licensure to sell to the adult-use market beginning this July. (Regulators would need to start approving additional marijuana business licenses by July 1, 2024.)
The legislation allows for as many as 300 total retailers to operate in the state. New dispensaries will not be permitted to be located within 500 feet of a school, childcare facility, playground, recreational center, library or public park. Licensed retailers must be separated from one another by at least 1,000 feet. A new independent agency, the Maryland Cannabis Administration, will be responsible for overseeing the program.
The bill imposes a sales tax on adult-use cannabis products of 9 percent, similar to the rate charged for alcohol. Products sold to registered medical patients will not be subject to taxes. Localities will not be permitted to impose additional taxes, nor may local governments prohibit existing medical dispensaries from serving the adult use market.
The legislation increases the amount of cannabis that qualified patients may possess and also permits them to grow up to four plants at home.
Unlike recently enacted legalization laws in several other states, it does not include provisions explicitly protecting employees from being sanctioned by their employers for their off-the-job cannabis use.
The legislation now heads to the desk of Democratic Gov. Wes Moore, who is expected to sign it into law.
Voters in November overwhelmingly approved a referendum (Question 4) directing state lawmakers to establish rules and regulations governing the production and sale of cannabis to adults. By approving Question 4, voters also triggered the enactment of separate, complementary legislation (HB 837), which permits to adults to possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis and/or 12 grams of cannabis concentrates with no penalty beginning in July. The law also permits adults to home-cultivate up to two plants in a private residence.