In November citizens of Maryland cast a vote to decide whether or not cannabis should be legalized recreationally. The vote went through with the majority being in favor of the bill. There are two lawmakers who are responsible for cosponsoring the Cannabis Reform bill. These delegates are C.T. Wilson, chair of the Economic Matters Committee, and Vanessa Atterbeary, chair of Ways and Means. Both delegates originally opposed the bill but now much must bend to the will of the voters to construct legislation that will spur the economy. Delegate Wilson was quoted, “ We believe in the concept of making it safer for Marylanders, of taking it out of the criminal commerce.” This means that now that this bill has been pushed through, he finds it crucial to make the process safer so that people will stop purchasing cannabis from street dealers.
An 88-page emergency bill was presented to the House and Senate in which the state’s regulatory and taxation framework for the adult-use marijuana industry will be established. On July 1st, 2023, the sale and recreational use of cannabis will become legal. Delegate Wilson believes that the cost of cannabis should not be more than what is available on the street or it will defeat the purpose of having a safer alternative through the state. The legislation provides for the state to tax the sale of cannabis initially be 6%, which is the same as Maryland’s sales tax. Eventually, it will rise up to 10% in 2028. The sales would be taxed at the consumer level only. A new regulation and enforcement division within the state’s current Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, which would be renamed the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Cannabis Commission would also be created.
In addition, a new Office of Social Equity will be established to promote the participation of “people from communities that have previously been disproportionately harmed by the way on drugs” in order to positively impact such communities. Delegate Atterbeary went on to say that she does not want to “put minorities behind in this billion-dollar industry for years and years to come because there will be no opportunity to catch up.” By this, she means that she wants minority groups to also benefit from the new legislation.
In the bill, the maximum number of standard licenses that could be issued was: 75 growers licenses, 100 processor licenses, and 300 dispensary licenses. A new category for “micro licenses” was also established which provides the issuance of a maximum of 100 grower licenses, 100 processor licenses, and 200 dispensary licenses. Micro growers will be restricted to 10,000 square feet and a microprocessor can only process 1,000 pounds of cannabis a year. This type of dispensary may operate a delivery service that sells cannabis without a storefront that employs less than 10 workers. The state of Maryland may also issue up to 10 “incubator space” licenses for micro licensees. 15 on-site consumption licenses for individuals to smoke, vape, or consume cannabis may also be up for grabs.