Marylanders and our neighbors are likely to have heard of marijuana decriminalization in our great State. The act of possessing under 10 grams of cannabis has been reduced from a criminal offense to a civil infraction since 2014. In other words, instead of probation or possibly a jail term and a $500 fine, you get a ticket with $100 fine for your first offense, increasing to $250 for your second, and $500 plus mandatory substance abuse counseling for your third offense and beyond. Although you’re no longer at risk of being imprisoned for possession and use of small amounts of cannabis, the substance itself and its use are still considered illegal. Many people forget that decriminalization is not an interchangeable word with legalization. You may still be punished for this activity, albeit a lesser punishment, but a punishment nonetheless. What are Marylanders to do? We have legitimate, qualified patients in our state who are still subject to fines and rehab for use of cannabis as a medication. Yes, of course, medical cannabis is the answer to this issue, and Maryland has a Medical Cannabis program, but with the licensing process being dragged on for over a year, and no operational dispensaries in sight, a prospective Maryland medical cannabis patient is faced with only one option: to break the law. They break the law when they obtain cannabis, they break the law when they use it, they even break federal law when they leave the state for meds and return (a little interstate commerce can get the feds so riled up and let me add: THIS IS STILL A CRIMINAL FEDERAL OFFENSE). What’s the solution? First off, don’t leave the state when doing your business, so the feds mind their own. Second, talk to your physician about your symptoms, how cannabis seems to be the only course of treatment that’s been effective is alleviating or helping with whatever that chronic condition may be. We hear so much about decriminalization of marijuana, and the medical cannabis program, but we don’t often hear about the Medical Necessity law. When possession was a criminal offense, medical necessity was used as a defense in court, and if properly used, lessens the maximum penalty to a $100 fine. It’s not the perfect solution, but until the medical program is fully operation, Maryland patients need to know EVERY legal solution available to them. Tell me you don’t agree that $100 sounds more appealing than $500 and drug counseling every few months.
Alex Pe is an attorney based in Baltimore, Maryland. Former general counsel for Medical Marijuana Advocates Group, he concentrated his practice in marijuana policy, licensing, and compliance. His firm, Hensley Pe Law represents clients on a range of issues, from business matters, civil litigation, and criminal defense.
This article isn’t meant to be construed as legal advice and is for informational purposes only. If you need to seek legal counsel and/or require representation on a certain matter, feel free to contact us for a for a free consultation.