Marijuana Ballot Initiatives

Maryland Becomes the 20th State To Legalize Recreational Marijuana

Voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing adults 21 or older to use cannabis and instructing legislators to authorize commercial production and distribution.


Maryland, where the state legislature approved medical marijuana in 2014, today became the 20th state to allow recreational use of cannabis. With 66 percent of ballots reported, 65 percent of voters had said yes to Question 4, a constitutional amendment that allows adults 21 or older to "use and possess cannabis." The amendment also says the Maryland General Assembly "shall, by law, provide for the use, distribution, possession, regulation, and taxation of cannabis within the state."

In April, Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, allowed a bill filling in some of the details to become law without his signature. As of January 1, H.B. 837 makes it legal for adults to purchase and possess up to an ounce and a half of marijuana. It also eliminates criminal penalties for possessing two and a half ounces or less.

Under current law, possessing less than 10 grams (about a third of an ounce) is a civil offense punishable by a $100 fine, while possessing more (up to 50 pounds) is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and/or a maximum fine of $1,000. Smoking marijuana in a public place will remain illegal in Maryland, subject to a maximum civil fine of $250 for the first offense and $500 for subsequent offenses.

The new law allows adults to grow up to two marijuana plants at home and share cannabis "without remuneration." It authorizes expungement of criminal records and/or resentencing for people previously convicted of marijuana-related conduct that has now been legalized.

The legislature has not yet approved rules for commercial production and distribution, which it is expected to tackle next year. Geoffrey Lawrence, director of drug policy at Reason Foundation (which publishes Reason), notes that "it's unclear where anyone would legally purchase this marijuana," since "the legislature has not authorized any form of a commercial system." Without new legislation, he says, selling recreational marijuana and growing it for sale "would remain crimes."

The success of Question 4 is consistent with two surveys conducted in September. A Goucher College poll of likely voters put support for the measure at 59 percent, while a University of Maryland poll found that 73 percent of registered voters favored the initiative.

Opponents of Question 4 included Smart Approaches to Marijuana and the Parent Action Network. "My family member never smoked pot," Heidi Rochon, executive director of the latter group, told Maryland Matters last month. "Within six months, used it every single day….This is creating an addiction…and we haven't even opened the market here in Maryland."

The amendment's supporters included several state legislators and the Marijuana Policy Project. According to a Ballotpedia tally, organizations backing Question 4 reported more than $200,000 in contributions, while the opposition reported none.