The Maryland General Assembly considered several important marijuana policy reforms in 2015 — from improving our state’s decriminalization and medical marijuana laws to replacing marijuana prohibition with sensible regulations. Below is an overview of specific bills. Please click through to determine how your state senator and state delegate(s) voted on these bills and to see if they were sponsors. If you do not know who represents you in Annapolis, please click here.
The 2015 legislative session resulted in some positive movement for marijuana policy reform, especially in the area of decriminalization. The General Assembly expanded upon its 2014 decriminalization of the possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana by passing Senate Bill 517, legislation that would remove criminal penalties for marijuana paraphernalia. Despite its widespread support, Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed this bill. When the General Assembly reconvenes in January 2016, legislators will have the opportunity to override the governor’s veto.
Special thanks to Sen. Bobby Zirkin, Chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, for sponsoring this measure, and to Del. Curt Anderson, who sponsored a similar bill, House Bill 105, in the House of Delegates.
In addition to decriminalizing paraphernalia possession, SB 517 would have created a civil fine of up to $500 for smoking marijuana in public. Many thanks to Sen. Rich Madaleno for attempting to lower the fine from $500 to $250. It was quite a fight to ensure that the final bill only included a $500 civil fine and NOT a criminal penalty for public consumption of marijuana. A key vote on this issue took place in the Senate, on an amendment sponsored by Sen. Brian Feldman. Thank you to Sen. Feldman for working to ensure that this bill did not include criminal penalties.
On the House side, Del. Mary Beth Carozza introduced an amendment to add criminal penalties for public smoking to the decriminalization bill. We thank the legislators who successfully beat back her amendment.
While the decriminalization fix bill is still pending, an important expungement bill was enacted. Legislation was passed and signed by the governor that allows Marylanders to expunge their records for crimes that are no longer crimes — like possession of small amounts of marijuana. Del. Curt Anderson’s HB 124 passed 93-46 and the companion bill, SB 651, sponsored by Sen. C. Anthony Muse, was subsequently taken up by both chambers and passed.
While support for legalization of marijuana increases every day, unfortunately, the Marijuana Control and Revenue Act of 2015, legislation to legalize marijuana and tax and regulate its sale, failed to come to a vote in either the House or the Senate. Del. Curt Anderson was lead sponsor of House Bill 911. Special thanks to Del. Anderson and his co-lead sponsors, Del. Nathaniel Oaks and Del. David Fraser-Hidalgo, as well as the 28 other legislators who co-sponsored the bill, including our House Judiciary Committee champion, Del. David Moon, and House Ways and Means Committee Champion, Del. Eric Leudtke.
The Senate version of the Marijuana Control and Revenue Act, Senate Bill 531, was sponsored by Sen. Jamie Raskin. We are grateful for the leadership of Sen. Raskin and his co-sponsors, Sens. Feldman, Kelley, King, Madaleno, Manno, McFadden,
Pinsky, Pugh, and Young.
Regulations to establish a statewide medical cannabis program are now final. These regulations were guided — in part — by passage of House Bill 490. HB 490 removes the requirement that patients be enrolled in a medical marijuana research program at an academic hospital. It also updates and clarifies the rules of the program so that thousands of Marylanders who can benefit will be helped in a responsible and safe manner.