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US: Recreational marijuana is now legal in Maryland. 'Expect a lot of fun.'
The Washington Post
Saturday 01 Jul 2023
Eager cannabis users camped out in the Green Ridge State Forest at a music festival that marked the occasion with a countdown to a 12 a.m. “bong drop.” The Maryland Marijuana Justice advocacy group gathered 30,000 marijuana seeds to hand out for free Saturday.
And dispensaries invited DJs and food trucks for the first day of recreational sales, where customers 21 and older with a driver’s license or other government-issued ID can now buy dried flower, pre-rolled joints, vape cartridges containing THC and edibles at licensed dispensaries.
Maryland voters overwhelmingly supported legalizing cannabis last November, joining 22 other states and D.C. in decriminalizing the drug. Unlike in neighboring jurisdictions like Virginia and D.C., Maryland lawmakers swiftly set up a legal market for recreational sales, ensuring that people could stay on the right side of the law while partaking in the drug and also securing a new source of tax revenue for the state.
“Maryland has been so medical for so long, [people] crave the other side of the cannabis space,” said Jeremy Unruh, senior vice president of public and regulatory affairs for PharmaCann Inc., which runs two Verilife dispensaries in Maryland. “Expect a lot of fun.”
Existing medical marijuana businesses converted their licenses into adult-use licenses so that people would have a place to buy legal marijuana on Saturday. Lawmakers took that approach in the hopes that easy-to-access and affordable legal cannabis would squash the black market from day one of legalization. There are about 100 dispensaries open for recreational sales across the state — and consultants hired to analyze demand for the state estimated Maryland will need at least 300 to keep up with demand moving forward.
New businesses will be able to apply for additional licenses later this year, with the first round being granted by January. Companies owned by people who live in or attended school in areas of the state that were disproportionately affected by cannabis arrests when the drug was still illegal will be given preference in the first round of adult-use licensing, with the hope of increasing diversity in an industry that has been disproportionately dominated by White men.
Growers, processors and dispensaries across the state have worked for months to prepare for a surge in demand. Cannabis shops from Allegany to Worcester counties opened their doors to a much larger customer base, and many held special events to mark the occasion.
The ballot measure passed by voters in November made it legal for people 21 and older to possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis, up to 12 grams of concentrated cannabis, or a total amount of cannabis products that does not exceed 750 mg of THC. It also allowed Marylanders to grow up to two plants at home, as long as they have permission from the homeowner and keep the plants out of public view. However, the Maryland Cannabis Administration told The Washington Post that recreational users can be cited for possessing more than the 1.5-ounce limit even if that cannabis is grown at home. A civil fine applies to people found to be in possession of between 1.5 ounces and 2.5 ounces of cannabis. Possessing more than 2.5 ounces of cannabis could result in criminal charges.
The Cannabis Reform Act, passed by legislators in April, set up new rules for recreational cannabis businesses. That law solved a number of logistical problems by setting up an adult-use license structure, implementing a 9 percent tax on recreational cannabis sales and making it legal for people to buy seeds and seedlings from licensed dispensaries to grow their own cannabis at home. It also requires recreational cannabis products undergo the same testing as medical marijuana.
The state’s medical marijuana program will continue to operate as before, with registered patients able to access some cannabis products that exceed the THC concentration permitted for recreational sales. Medical cardholders can also possess more marijuana than recreational users, up to a 30-day supply determined by their medical provider.
Many dispensaries will continue to serve patients by offering medical-only hours, express lines for medical cardholders and reserving some stock for their medical customers. Marylanders who are 18 or older can apply to be part of the state’s medical cannabis program with the support of a medical provider, and there is a process for minor patients to apply for an exception to the age limit with certain qualifying medical conditions.
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