Recreational marijuana proposal under consideration in Maryland

A new law to legalize marijuana in Maryland failed. Here are the basics for where things stand in the state.

Lawmakers in Maryland recently considered passage of a law that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Essentially, the proposal would put up for vote an amendment to the state's constitution that would allow for the legalization of marijuana. This is not the first time such proposal was under consideration. If passed, it would put Maryland with nine other states in the country that have legalized such use of this currently illegal drug.

The measure did not pass. Six separate measures that focused specifically on the medical use of marijuana did pass. They await the governor's signature.

Recreational marijuana use remains illegal in Maryland

There is no change to current law regarding recreational marijuana use in Maryland. The possession, sale, distribution, manufacture and cultivation of the drug remains illegal.

There is one caveat: laws within Maryland legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Patients can use marijuana for medical purposes if they have a qualifying "debilitating medical condition." This is defined by state law as a condition that includes severe or chronic pain, seizers or any other condition that is severe and resistant to conventional medicine. This condition must be diagnosed by a physician and be used for treatment of the defined debilitating medical condition.

In some cases, a caregiver may face charges for possession of marijuana. This caregiver could use an affirmative defense to fight the charges. To find success, the caregiver must establish that they were in possession of the drug for the individual with a debilitating medical condition and serves as that individual's caregiver.

Criminal penalties that come with a marijuana related offense

Generally, an offense that involves the possession of ten grams or less of marijuana results in a fine of up to $100 for the first offense, $250 for the second and $500 for additional offenses. A conviction for this crime can also come with required attendance at a drug education program, assessment for substance abuse disorder and reference for substance abuse treatment.

Possession of larger amounts, 10 grams to 50 pounds, can result in up to one year of jail time and a fine of up to $1,000.

A charge that involves the intent to sell or distribute marijuana comes with much more severe penalties. These charges can include a felony charge with up to five years of imprisonment and a $15,000 fine. If the charges included an amount of marijuana that is over 50 pounds, these penalties can increase to a minimum of forty years in prison.

Defenses for those accused of a drug crime in Maryland

It is likely lawmakers will take additional proposals to legalize the use of marijuana in Maryland under consideration. At some point, such a law may pass. Even then, federal charges could still apply. The possession, use, sale and distribution of marijuana remains illegal under federal laws. As such, an individual accused of marijuana related drug offenses in Maryland must take the state and/or federal criminal charges seriously.

An attorney experienced in these matters can review the evidence gathered by the prosecution and structure a defense to these charges. This can result in a less-damaging charge or even a complete dismissal. Contact an attorney to discuss these options.