Legislation To Launch Adult-Use Sales in Maryland Unveiled

Right on schedule, two companion bills to regulate adult-use cannabis sales by July 1 were unveiled in Maryland. Two pieces of legislation to award licenses, regulate the sale of cannabis, and set tax rates were filed Friday in both Maryland’s House and Senate.

WBAL-11 TV reports that the 120-page House Bill 556 and its companion bill that was cross-filed in the Senate, Senate Bill 556, were unveiled Friday. Maryland Delegates Vanessa Atterbeary (D-District 13) and C. T. Wilson (D-District 28) sponsored the House bill and Sens. Brian Feldman (D-District 15) and Antonio Hayes (D-District 40) sponsored the Senate version.

The bills would implement a phased-in style tax structure that begins at 6%, and is capped at 10%. The tax rate would increase by 1% each year incrementally, finally to be capped at 10%. 

Thirty percent of tax revenue would be allocated toward a community reinvestment fund for 10 or more years. It would also allocate 1.5% of tax revenue to go to local jurisdictions and 1.5% towards Cannabis Public Health Fund and the Cannabis Business Assistance Fund each.

Not Falling Into the Same Traps as Other States

Lawmakers in Maryland said they want to avoid problems seen in adult-use cannabis markets in other states—particularly New York.

“We have to have it ready, otherwise we will have New York’s problem, which is a huge illicit market. Once they lock their heels in, it’s hard to move around,” said Wilson.

The July 1 date of sales would align with the original date set under Question 4. Lawmakers said they were confident that the sale of adult-use will begin July 1 in Maryland, as per the constitutional amendment approved by a large majority of voters.

Wilson reiterated the reasoning behind legalizing pot in Maryland—which goes well beyond simply recreational purposes.

“The goal … wasn’t to get Marylanders high,” Wilson said. “It was to take cannabis out of the criminal street of commerce, take young Black men from being arrested and dying.”

He continued, saying the legislation would “create a more business-friendly space for African Americans and minorities to participate, that’s the overarching goal of the bill.”

Some lawmakers expressed concerns over potential problems that could arise.

“The bill focuses on a very simple taxing structure. We are not permitting a piggyback tax by the local (jurisdictions), so I hope they don’t think they are about to suck in a whole lot of money from this,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chairwoman Vanessa Atterbeary, (D-District 13).

The Road to Adult-Use Sales in Maryland

Voters approved Question 4, or the Marijuana Legalization Amendment, on Nov. 8. The passage of this initiative amends the Maryland Constitution with Article XX which allows cannabis possession and consumption for adults 21 and older, starting on or after July 1, 2023. The amendment also instructed the Maryland General Assembly to “provide for the use, distribution, possession, regulation, and taxation of cannabis within the state.”

Question 4 legalized the possession of cannabis up to 1.5 ounces of flower and 10 grams of concentrate, which was immediately decriminalized after Jan. 1, 2023, and will become legal on July 1, 2023. The bill permits residents to grow two cannabis plants at home, and immediately expunges anyone with cannabis convictions on their record.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said weeks ago that he wants to avoid long, drawn-out rollout to the state’s voter-approved law

“People of the state overwhelmingly chose to decriminalize cannabis. So we as a state now have an obligation to make sure that the will of the people is both heard, but that we do have a swift and equitable rollout,” Moore told Politico last month.

The post Legislation To Launch Adult-Use Sales in Maryland Unveiled appeared first on High Times.

Maryland Gov. Wants To Avoid Long, Drawn-out Cannabis Rollout

Voters in Maryland last year elected a new governor and approved an initiative legalizing recreational cannabis. 

Now, the freshly sworn-in Gov. Wes Moore will lead the effort to implement the state’s marijuana law.

“People of the state overwhelmingly chose to decriminalize cannabis. So we as a state now have an obligation to make sure that the will of the people is both heard, but that we do have a swift and equitable rollout,” Moore, a Democrat, told Politico in an interview that was published this week.

Moore won handily in his race against Republican Dan Cox in November, 65% to 32%, to become Maryland’s first black governor. 

In the same election, Maryland voters approved Question 4, which legalized recreational marijuana use for adults in the state and also laid the groundwork for a regulated retail cannabis market, by roughly the same margin. 

When the calendar flipped to 2023 this month, parts of that new cannabis law took effect

Possession of as many as one-and-a-half ounces of weed no longer constitutes a crime in Maryland; instead, it is currently only a civil violation. It will be fully legal starting in July.

Additionally, Marylanders who have a marijuana-related conviction on their records will have it expunged from their records by the summer of 2024, although they have the option to petition and ask a judge to resentence in order to have it scrubbed sooner. 

The state’s regulated cannabis market, however, likely won’t launch until 2024 or 2025. 

In his interview with Politico this week, Moore said it is important for the rollout of the new marijuana program to not be long and drawn out.

“That is something that we will be [working with] the legislature during this session and something that we are going to have to lay out when we look at our budgetary agenda.

That is how we’re making sure that the process of the rollout of cannabis is going to be equitable, it’s going to be transparent and it’s going to be quick,” said Moore, who was sworn in as governor on Wednesday. “We cannot have a process that takes 18 to 24 months to roll out, because if this goes on too long, what you’re doing is you’re inviting the illegal market back into it. Then you’re going to run into some of the same challenges that some of these other states are having or have had.”

Moore added, “This has to be something where, once we have everything in place when it comes to cannabis, from distribution, taxation and revenue returns, [if you’re buying on the black market] then that, like any other illegal transaction, is now an illegal transaction. I think that’s one of the reasons why, again, we want to make sure we’re being transparent, equitable and quick within this process.” 

Sixty-seven percent of Maryland voters approved Question 4 in November, while only 33% voted against the measure. 

Question 4 was backed financially by the cannabis giant Trulieve, which already operates medical marijuana dispensaries in the state.

The “Yes on 4” campaign was led by Eugene Monroe, a former player for the Baltimore Ravens.

“Tonight voters in Maryland made history by bringing the era of failed marijuana prohibition to an end,” Monroe said in November after Question 4 passed. “For decades, the unequally enforced criminalization of cannabis in Maryland inflicted damage upon Black and Brown communities. We must turn the page on that disturbing history by centering Maryland’s legal marijuana market around racial equity. Cannabis legalization will create good-paying jobs, open up doors for small business owners, and generate new tax revenue for our state. Legislators in Maryland have a responsibility to ensure people in historically underserved communities are able to enjoy those benefits.”

The post Maryland Gov. Wants To Avoid Long, Drawn-out Cannabis Rollout appeared first on High Times.