Right on schedule, two companion bills to regulate adult-use cannabis sales by July 1 were unveiled in Maryland. Two pieces of legislation to award licenses, regulate the sale of cannabis, and set tax rates were filed Friday in both Maryland’s House and Senate.
WBAL-11 TV reports that the 120-page House Bill 556 and its companion bill that was cross-filed in the Senate, Senate Bill 556, were unveiled Friday. Maryland Delegates Vanessa Atterbeary (D-District 13) and C. T. Wilson (D-District 28) sponsored the House bill and Sens. Brian Feldman (D-District 15) and Antonio Hayes (D-District 40) sponsored the Senate version.
The bills would implement a phased-in style tax structure that begins at 6%, and is capped at 10%. The tax rate would increase by 1% each year incrementally, finally to be capped at 10%.
Thirty percent of tax revenue would be allocated toward a community reinvestment fund for 10 or more years. It would also allocate 1.5% of tax revenue to go to local jurisdictions and 1.5% towards Cannabis Public Health Fund and the Cannabis Business Assistance Fund each.
Not Falling Into the Same Traps as Other States
Lawmakers in Maryland said they want to avoid problems seen in adult-use cannabis markets in other states—particularly New York.
“We have to have it ready, otherwise we will have New York’s problem, which is a huge illicit market. Once they lock their heels in, it’s hard to move around,” said Wilson.
The July 1 date of sales would align with the original date set under Question 4. Lawmakers said they were confident that the sale of adult-use will begin July 1 in Maryland, as per the constitutional amendment approved by a large majority of voters.
Wilson reiterated the reasoning behind legalizing pot in Maryland—which goes well beyond simply recreational purposes.
“The goal … wasn’t to get Marylanders high,” Wilson said. “It was to take cannabis out of the criminal street of commerce, take young Black men from being arrested and dying.”
He continued, saying the legislation would “create a more business-friendly space for African Americans and minorities to participate, that’s the overarching goal of the bill.”
Some lawmakers expressed concerns over potential problems that could arise.
“The bill focuses on a very simple taxing structure. We are not permitting a piggyback tax by the local (jurisdictions), so I hope they don’t think they are about to suck in a whole lot of money from this,” said House Ways and Means Committee Chairwoman Vanessa Atterbeary, (D-District 13).
The Road to Adult-Use Sales in Maryland
Voters approved Question 4, or the Marijuana Legalization Amendment, on Nov. 8. The passage of this initiative amends the Maryland Constitution with Article XX which allows cannabis possession and consumption for adults 21 and older, starting on or after July 1, 2023. The amendment also instructed the Maryland General Assembly to “provide for the use, distribution, possession, regulation, and taxation of cannabis within the state.”
Question 4 legalized the possession of cannabis up to 1.5 ounces of flower and 10 grams of concentrate, which was immediately decriminalized after Jan. 1, 2023, and will become legal on July 1, 2023. The bill permits residents to grow two cannabis plants at home, and immediately expunges anyone with cannabis convictions on their record.
Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said weeks ago that he wants to avoid long, drawn-out rollout to the state’s voter-approved law.
“People of the state overwhelmingly chose to decriminalize cannabis. So we as a state now have an obligation to make sure that the will of the people is both heard, but that we do have a swift and equitable rollout,” Moore told Politico last month.