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How Does Maryland Address Marijuana Possession and Use?


As U.S. states continue to legalize marijuana for medical and even recreational use, the conversation around drug crimes is evolving accordingly. Whereas it was once largely unlawful to possess or use marijuana, Maryland and many other states have authorized medical marijuana. In certain places, it is completely lawful to possess and use marijuana for recreational purposes. That is not the case under Maryland state law, where it remains a criminal offense to possess or use marijuana beyond medical necessity.

Marijuana Possession and Use

Maryland Code of Criminal Law Section 5-601 details the conditions for possession and use of marijuana. In most situations, it is illegal to possess or use marijuana and other controlled substances in Maryland. Additionally, it is unlawful to obtain — or attempt to obtain — marijuana and other controlled substances by:

  • Deceiving, lying, defrauding, or otherwise misrepresenting;
  • Counterfeiting or altering a medical prescription;
  • Pretending to be a distributor, manufacturer, or other authorized party;
  • Using a fake name or address; or
  • Creating and using a false or counterfeit medical prescription.

As outlined below, however, Maryland law does provide a narrow exception for the possession and use of medical marijuana.

Exception for Medical Marijuana

Section 5–601 does provide a narrow exception for possession and use of marijuana in cases of medical necessity. Specifically, this section authorizes a person is allowed to possess and use marijuana if:

  • That person has a debilitating medical condition diagnosed by a licensed doctor;
  • Conventional medicine cannot treat the debilitating medical condition effectively; and
  • Marijuana is likely to grant some treatment benefit for the debilitating medical condition.

Furthermore, this section also protects licensed physicians, caregivers, and authorized providers. These parties are allowed to administer medical marijuana in the course of professional practice to treat debilitating medical conditions.

Penalties for Unlawful Marijuana Possession

Outside of exceptions for medical necessity, it is unlawful to possess or use marijuana in Maryland. Any person who violates Section 5–601 with respect to 10 grams or less of marijuana is guilty of a civil offense and subject to the penalties below:

  • One Violation — The offender must pay $100 in fines;
  • Two Violations — The offender must pay $250 in fines; and
  • Three Violations or More —The offender must pay $500 in fines.

In most other cases, unlawful marijuana possession is a misdemeanor offense. Upon conviction, the offender is potentially subject to six months in prison and $1,000 in fines.

Additionally, Section 5–601 makes it clear that any person who operates a vehicle while under the influence or impaired by marijuana is subject to all applicable penalties.

Do You Need Legal Help?

If you have legal questions about unlawful marijuana possession or other drugs crimes in Maryland, it can be incredibly helpful to consult with a seasoned criminal defense attorney. The Baltimore drug crimes attorneys at Iamele & Iamele, LLP have proven competencies in the field of criminal defense, including unlawful marijuana possession and other drug crimes. If you need legal help, contact us today for a free initial consultation.




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