Maryland,State,House,,In,Annapolis,,At,Dusk.

The Maryland State House at dusk in Annapolis.

(The Center Square) – With voters’ voices on record, members of both chambers of the Maryland General Assembly will begin the new legislative session by formalizing the legalization of marijuana for adults ages 21 and up.

The do’s and don’ts of lawful marijuana consumption will be altered throughout the course of the coming year, based on several pieces of legislation that were enacted in 2022.

In the 2022 legislative session, Delegate Luke Clippinger, D-Baltimore County, introduced House Bill 1 and House Bill 837.

The bills paved the way for the binding referendum question, asking voters to weigh in on the legalization of up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana, for adults reaching the 21-year-old threshold.

But the bills, approved in advance of the referendum, also decriminalized marijuana consumption, beginning Jan. 1. The pivotal change means anyone in possession of marijuana for non-medicinal purposes could be fined for a civil violation, punishable by a fine.

The referendum-fueled legislation is to be taken up in the months ahead and is expected to fully legalize marijuana for recreational use on July 1.

The laws, once fully enacted, do come with caveats. For instance, users cannot consume cannabis in public. Additionally, growers of cannabis plants cannot display them in public view.

The November referendum indicated strong support for marijuana legalization. Nearly two-thirds of voters said “yes” to the legalization question when all ballots were tallied.

Since the referendum’s passage, a number of advocacy groups have issued statements on the results. Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project was one such organization.

Olivia Naugle, senior policy analyst with the MPP, said the referendum’s passage “is a huge victory for criminal justice reform and racial justice in Maryland.”

Naugle added, “It will save thousands of Marylanders from arrests and further criminalization for cannabis possession, and it will begin to repair the decades of harm cannabis prohibition has caused, disproportionately in communities of color, by expunging records and reinvesting back into those communities. We look forward to working closely with Maryland lawmakers to ensure that the implementation of legalization is centered around equity.”

Maryland joins a growing list of states legalizing cannabis for adult use. Prior to November, it was legally permissible for recreational use in 19 states and for medical use in 37 states.

Maryland already has a robust medical marijuana program, which was enacted in 2013. And in 2014, the possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana was decriminalized.

However, nationally, Maryland has three of the top 10 counties that have the highest rates for possession arrests.