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Maryland Voters Will Decide On Recreational Marijuana Legalization This Year

ANNAPOLIS (WJZ/AP) -- Maryland voters will decide this year on legalizing recreational marijuana for adult use in the state.

Maryland lawmakers on Friday approved House Bill 1, which establishes the ballot referendum to legalize recreational marijuana for adult use, effective July 1, 2023. Currently, medicinal marijuana use is legal in Maryland.

If Maryland votes yes on the ballot question -- "Do you favor the legalization of adult–use cannabis in the State of Maryland?" -- then HB 837 will go into effect.

The companion bill, HB 837, would create an implementation plan based on the findings of the House Cannabis Referendum Workgroup.

The bill sets out to address criminal justice and public health issues, while also building a foundation for social equity in the industry, House Speaker Adrienne Jones' office said in February.

The bill would allow Marylanders to possess up to 1.5 ounces of recreational cannabis without penalty. Possession of over 1.5 ounces of cannabis and up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis would be reduced to a civil offense rather than a misdemeanor.

The legislation 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, anyone currently held in a state prison or local jail for a cannabis conviction would be resentenced to end their term of incarceration.

The bill also calls for a study to collect data on patterns of use, incidents of impaired driving, and the impact cannabis use has on public health.

A disparity study would be conducted to create a more equitable regulatory system and identify barriers to entering the industry. The measure also would create a small, minority–owned, and women–owned Cannabis Business Assistance Fund to help people disproportionately affected by marijuana laws.

The bill now heads to Gov. Larry Hogan's desk. Both the House and Senate vote margins would be enough to override a potential veto by Hogan.

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