Maryland voters decide to legalize recreational marijuana

By BRIAN WITTE, Associated Press

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland voters decide to legalize recreational marijuana in a constitutional amendment Tuesday.

Lawmakers have already approved legislation this year to take steps to implement recreational marijuana with voter approval, but the General Assembly has left licensing and tax issues to lawmakers to decide. next year.

The constitutional amendment states that recreational marijuana would not be legal until July 2023 for people 21 and older. If voters approve, the law includes provisions spelling out a transition period between Jan. 1 and July 1 that would include a fine of up to $100 for possession of marijuana under one and a half ounces.

Additionally, the legislation will remove criminal penalties up to 2.5 ounces and create a civil citation. Existing marijuana possession laws would apply to possession over 2.5 ounces.

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It also makes changes to the criminal law and creates a process to expunge prior convictions for possession of marijuana.

Starting January 1, a person convicted of cannabis possession can file a motion to have it expunged after serving their sentence and probation. By July 1, 2024, the state Department of Corrections would be required to clear all cases in which possession of cannabis is the only charge in the case, and if the charge was issued before July 1, 2023.

In addition, the law allows people convicted of marijuana charges to re-offend. As of January 1, a person incarcerated for a cannabis-related conviction could request a new sentence. The court would be required to grant the request and return the person to time served. If the person does not serve another sentence, he must be released.

Now, possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana is a civil offense in Maryland, with a fine of up to $100 for a first offense.

Currently, 19 states, plus the District of Columbia, have fully legalized marijuana. There are also 37 states, including Maryland, that have legalized medical marijuana.

Voters also decide other voting matters in Maryland.

The names of the state appellate courts would be changed. Maryland’s highest court – the Court of Appeals – would be renamed the Supreme Court of Maryland. The state’s intermediate court of appeals—the Special Court of Appeals—would be renamed the Maryland Court of Appeals.

Another proposed change would add to the residency requirement for a person to run for state legislature: A candidate would have to establish his or her place of residence in the district they run in their “primary place of residence” for six months. This would eliminate the possibility of renting a residence in the neighborhood as a second home to qualify.

Voters also decide to raise the threshold for the right to a jury trial in circuit court in civil proceedings to at least $25,000, from $15,000.

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