ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Maryland lawmakers voted Friday to let voters decide whether to legalize recreational marijuana in November.
The Maryland House voted 94-39 for a constitutional amendment already approved by the Senate. The House also voted 89-41 for a separate measure that takes steps to implement recreational marijuana, if voters approve, but it leaves matters of licensing and taxes for lawmakers to decide next year.
The constitutional amendment does not require approval from Republican Gov. Larry Hogan. The General Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats, sent the implementation bill to Hogan in time to override a veto, if the governor rejects the measure, before lawmakers adjourn April 11. The House and Senate both passed the bill with enough votes to override a veto.
The constitutional amendment defines that recreational marijuana would not be legal until July 2023 for people 21 and over. The legislation includes provisions spelling out a transitional period between Jan. 1 and July 1 that would include a fine for possession of marijuana of under an ounce and a half.
If voters approve, the companion bill would legalize possession of up to 1.5 ounces. It also would remove criminal penalties of up to 2.5 ounces and create a civil citation. Existing laws on marijuana possession would apply to possession of more than 2.5 ounces.
It would make changes in criminal law and create automatic expungements of past marijuana possession convictions. It also would automatically expunge the conviction of anyone previously found guilty of simple possession of marijuana, if it was the only charge in the case. In addition, it allows for resentencing of those convicted of marijuana charges.
Now, the possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana is a civil violation in Maryland, with a fine of up to $100 for a first offense.
Currently, 18 states, along with the District of Columbia, have fully legalized marijuana. There also are 37 states, including Maryland, that have legalized medical marijuana. Maryland currently has about 150,000 registered cannabis patients.