After lawmakers blazed a trail for a regulated cannabis market, we asked readers whether they were hazy on the details and if they still had questions.
The cannabis curious wanted to know everything from whether they can be drug tested at work to where they can legally light up.
The possession and use of small amounts of recreational cannabis becomes legal on July 1 for anyone 21 and older, after voters approved legalization last fall.
But there are still a few months between now and then, so let’s take a minute on 4/20, the unofficial cannabis holiday, and clear the fog. Often, readers submitted variations of similar questions, so we rolled them all up into one big Q&A.
Will medical dispensaries be able to sell recreational cannabis? If so, what would the timeline be?
- How will it be handled with residents who are already medical cannabis card holders? What provisions will be made?
- Will recreational patients be able to access all the products that medical patients do?
Maryland’s medical cannabis program will remain intact. Customers can still purchase medical cannabis tax-free at dispensaries, just as they have been doing. Those same dispensaries will sell to recreational customers, too, but they’ll charge a 9% tax. And the products are the same for both types of buyer.
There are a few other special treats for medical consumers: Dispensaries will have to keep the shelves stocked to meet demand and must offer either dedicated hours or express lanes to ease the shopping experience.
New medical cannabis patients will still be able to get certified by state-approved medical professionals.
As a business owner can I test employees for marijuana? Are state employees allowed to be tested for marijuana?
- Are there any employee protections for cannabis use in this legislation, as there are in some other legal states?
There’s nothing in the new law that keeps the boss from drug testing employees. And there’s nothing in the new law that protects cannabis users from being fired if they’re high at work and they’re not supposed to be.
Think of it the same way as alcohol: While it’s legal for those 21 and older to consume alcohol, an employer would likely frown upon a worker being drunk on the job.
So check your employer’s policy regarding substance use and drug testing before using when it might overlap with work.
Will there be any limitations or restrictions for any professions or for those employed by the federal government?
- I’m a federal employee who lives and works in Maryland. Will I be able to enjoy recreational cannabis legally? Federal law still says it’s illegal. Which takes precedence in my case?
Even if a federal employee lives in Maryland, they’d risk losing their job if they consumed and tested positive for cannabis.
Here’s why. Cannabis is still illegal under federal law, and those laws govern federal agencies. The Controlled Substances Act lists marijuana as a Schedule I drug, along with LSD, MDMA (ecstasy) and heroin.
Congress made a recent attempt to snuff out the cannabis ban for federal employees. But the measure flamed out.
Where can I legally smoke dope?
- Where will you be legally allowed to consume cannabis? On the street? In a designated cafe?
People will be able to smoke cannabis on their own private property and in their own homes, with some exceptions. If you’re renting, landlords will have the final say whether renters can toke in their dwellings, just like with cigarettes.
Also, smoking cannabis in public buildings still violates the Clean Indoor Air Act, the state law that bans smoking indoors. Generally, if cigarette smoking won’t be allowed, neither will smoking cannabis.
Other prohibitions include smoking cannabis in a parked car on public property and blazing in a moving vehicle, even as a passenger.
The new law created licenses for on-site consumption facilities, essentially cannabis lounges. Customers could consume cannabis in other forms on those premises, like edibles, but they still won’t be able to smoke it indoors.
Ask a question about recreational cannabis
Did we miss anything? Use the form below to submit a question about Maryland’s new recreational cannabis law. We’ll be checking questions through July 1.
What about those of us who do not smoke and have to deal with secondhand marijuana smoke in our rented apartments?
- Marijuana has a strong smell often compared to that of a skunk. How will odors be controlled in public and residential areas? I want to be able to enjoy nature in my backyard or let fresh air in the house by opening windows, but if neighbors are smoking the air quality will be diminished.
Should dank, earthy cannabis fumes waft across the hedgerow, the neighbors might be mowing a different kind of grass. But nothing about cannabis odor will be illegal.
But in places where cannabis has already been legalized, the odor has become the source of legal squabbles.
Will police enforce driving under the influence for marijuana use in cars?
Driving under the influence of drugs is still illegal. This includes newly legalized cannabis.
Law enforcement can still pull someone over if they suspect the driver is operating a motor vehicle while impaired.
But starting on July 1, police can’t stop or search cars or individuals based solely on cannabis odor.
If a court determines cannabis odor was the sole reason for a police search, anything else the cops found when they looked can’t be used as evidence.
Can anybody over the age of 21 buy cannabis in Maryland?
- How much cannabis can I get?
Yes. It’s legal to purchase recreational cannabis after July 1 for those 21 and older. Anyone of age can possess up to 1.5 ounces, which is considered a “personal use amount.”
However, possessing large amounts of cannabis is still illegal. So here are the guardrails.
Carrying more than 1.5 ounces, but not more than 2.5 ounces, could earn someone a civil fine of $250. Anything over 2.5 ounces is a criminal misdemeanor and could mean up to six months of prison time, or a $1,000 fine.
How are you going to be able to stop those who aren’t yet 21-years-old from getting it?
Dispensaries have to card recreational customers just like liquor stores. If they sell to underage customers and get caught, they face penalties. But so will the underage buyer.
Those under age 21 who are caught — even with 1.5 ounces or less — could face a $100 fine. A judge could also send the youth to a drug education program, have them assessed for a substance use disorder, or send them to a drug treatment program.
Will home growing be allowed and if so, what will the plant limit be?
- It’s about time, but can we grow our own (2-4) plants?
- I would like to know the number of plants medical cannabis card holders can grow?
Feel like testing out your green thumb? Marylanders will soon be able to grow pot at home.
Medical cannabis patients can grow up to four plants per household after July 1. Recreational customers can grow up to two per household, as long as they are out of public view.
Will there be a THC [or potency] cap on cannabis?
There’s nothing official yet, but there will be.
The Maryland Cannabis Administration, the state agency responsible for industry oversight and regulation, will set maximum potency limits for products sold in the state.
Cannabis processors already label products, showing customers the makeup of the naturally occurring chemical compounds like THC and CBD contained in each.
If I live out of state, like West Virginia, can I still buy it if I’m 21?
Yes, you cannabis!
There’s no law prohibiting out-of-state shoppers from buying in Maryland. But federal law prohibits transporting cannabis across state lines. So, maybe plan pot purchases around a mini vacation. We’ll have crab cakes if you get hungry.