Maryland Senate Committee Approves Bill Establishing Legal Marijuana Industry

A bill to follow voters’ wishes and establish a licensed, regulated and taxed system of legal marijuana stores has been passed by Maryland’s Senate Finance Committee.

The committee approved Senate Bill 516 by a vote of 7 to 2, moving it towards a vote by the full Senate. A version of the bill has already passed the House of Representatives, but will need to go back (or a conference committee established) if it’s passed by the full Senate in order to concur with or make changes to committee-approved amendments.

If Senate Bill 516 is passed into law The Marijuana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission would be renamed as the Maryland Alcohol, Tobacco and Cannabis Commission, which would be responsible for overseeing industry regulations. A Division of Cannabis Regulation and Enforcement would be in charge of reviewing, approving and issuing licenses for marijuana businesses.

The proposal would tax marijuana sales at 9% (the same as the House version of the bill), with medical marijuana patients exempt. $5 million would be appropriated each year for grants to existing medical cannabis dispensaries that form “meaningful partnerships” with social equity applicants.

Current medical marijuana dispensaries would be given the option of paying a fee for a “dual license” in order to start selling recreational marijuana by July 1 of this year. License approval for new marijuana businesses would need to begin by July 1, 2024.

Under the proposal cities would not be allowed to establish their own marijuana tax as is the case with most other legal marijuana states. Cities would also be prohibited from banning medical marijuana businesses that convert to a dual license in order to serve medical and recreational consumers.

In November voters gave approval to an initiative (Question 4) that legalizes the possession, use and licensed distribution of up to an ounce and a half of marijuana through a change in the state’s constitution. Although the full law doesn’t take effect until July, as a gradual step forward as of January 1st it’s now punishable by no more than a civil fine of $100 for possessing up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis.

Earlier this month the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committees gave approval to a bill that would prevent law enforcement from using marijuana odor as the sole evidence for probable cause or reasonable suspicion.

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