Cannabis consumption still must abide by certain rules in Maryland
County's two dispensaries opening to customers 21 and up
Fireworks won’t be the only thing burning this Fourth of July, because recreational cannabis becomes legal starting on Saturday, and the two local dispensaries are opening to all customers 21 and older.
Hi Tide Dispensary, a vendor of medical cannabis located off Route 611 in West Ocean City, made a Facebook post on June 23 saying that customers must bring a valid driver’s license, government ID or passport to purchase recreational cannabis at Hi Tide after July 1.
The next day, its Facebook posted a disclaimer telling medical cannabis patients to stock up before July 1, because dispensary operators anticipate long lines.
On Wednesday morning, Hi Tide made another post, this time telling customers that Facebook is constantly sending them warnings, and that if information on the page isn’t up to date, the dispensary’s profile might have been suspended or shut down.
Hi Tide could not be reached after several contact attempts.
Positive Energy, another medical cannabis dispensary on Route 50 in West Ocean City said on its website that it too will be able to sell recreational cannabis starting July 1.
It notes that customers can only purchase up to their single-day personal use amount, which is 1.5 ounces of flower (a moniker for the traditional plant version of cannabis), 12 grams of vape cartridges or 750 mg total in THC edibles.
Some products are restricted to recreational customers, according to Positive Energy’s website. Any edibles over 10 mg per serving and concentrated THC products are for medical patients only.
Positive Energy also couldn’t be reached for comment after several attempts.
In November’s gubernatorial election, question four asked Maryland citizens if they were in favor or against a constitutional amendment to legalize the adult use and possession of cannabis.
More than 67 percent of voters marked yes, and it passed.
Cannabis Reform Bill HB0556 was approved by Gov. Wes Moore on May 3 of this year.
Among its list of reforms, the bill imposes a nine percent sales tax on recreational cannabis, establishes the Maryland Cannabis Administration, provides a cannabis licensing and registration framework, sets cannabis advertising restrictions and authorizes political subdivisions, which allows counties or municipalities to create their own cannabis-related ordinances, according to the Fiscal and Policy note for the bill.
The note states that medical cannabis license holders can obtain a recreational adult-use cannabis business license by paying a one-time conversion fee.
The fee for any medical dispensary that went operational before Oct. 1, 2022, is equal to 10 percent of the businesses total gross revenues for 2022. It must be at least $100,000 but can’t go over $2 million.
Dispensaries who became operational after Oct. 1 pay a flat rate of $50,000.
Businesses that don’t convert to a recreational license can’t operate under their medical license after July 1, but can sell it to another party who can then convert it to recreational.
A political subdivision cannot stop a medical dispensary within its jurisdiction from converting to recreational. Nor can a subdivision instill zoning requirements that “unduly burden” licensed cannabis businesses or make a deal with a business to contribute money, services or anything of value to the subdivision, according to the note.
As these changes hit town this weekend, the Ocean City Police Department is preparing for adjustments in training and law enforcement practices.
On June 25, the department started a social media campaign to inform the public about the changing laws.
“One of the most notable changes is to the quantity an individual can legally possess,” said Ashley Miller, deputy communications manager for the OCPD.
While adults over 21 can legally possess cannabis after July 1, any underage people in possession are still subject to civil penalties, Miller said.
Miller noted that Maryland law now refers to marijuana as cannabis.
Before the law changed, marijuana possession under 10 grams was citable, and anything over 10 grams was arrestable.
Come Saturday, adults can possess similar limits to the daily-purchase maximums that Positive Energy outlined on their website. That is; 1.5 ounces of cannabis, 12 grams of concentrated cannabis, cannabis products containing a maximum of 750 mg or up to two cannabis plants.
By law, any cannabis plants must be grown out of public view, Miller said.
Cannabis does not have to be in dispensary packaging to be considered legal, Miller said.
Civil use amounts include possession of more than 1.5 ounces of cannabis, but less than 2.5 ounces, possession of more than 12 grams of concentrated cannabis, but less than 20 grams, and possession of products containing more than 750 mg of THC, but less than 1250 mg.
Civil use amounts are subject to a fine of up to $250. Possession of anything over the civil use maximums is a criminal misdemeanor, Miller said.
A recent but separate Maryland bill, HB1071, which also goes into effect on July 1, prohibits police from searching a person or vehicle based only on certain kinds of cannabis-related evidence, including smell.
HB1071 also limits where police can search a car when investigating a suspected DUI caused by cannabis use.
It also prohibits drivers and passengers from smoking cannabis inside a car. The fine for such an offense is $20, Miller said.
Smoking cannabis in public is illegal even after Saturday, which includes any outdoor or indoor spaces open to the public like parks, sidewalks, restaurants and public transportation, Miller said.
For Ocean City, this includes the beach and Boardwalk.
“You are not allowed to smoke cannabis in the designated smoking areas located on the Boardwalk and beach. Smoking cannabis in a public place is a civil offense subject to a fine,” Miller said.
Miller said that anytime law changes, the department prepares officers to act accordingly.
“This has been a topic discussed greatly within our department to ensure we provide the highest degree of ethical behavior, professional conduct, and quality police services to all residents and visitors,” Miller said.
She noted that the OCPD hopes to train every officer in Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement (ARIDE), which helps officers identify DUI’s and DWI’s. The department also has 33 Drug Recognition Experts active in the state-wide Maryland DRE program.
Miller said that human officers are not the only ones with alterations in training.
The OCPD did not train two out of their five K9’s to alert to cannabis in anticipation of the legislation.
“A handler can add scents to a K9’s training but you are not able to take away a scent they have already been trained on. Any future K9s will not be trained on cannabis,” Miller said.
After July 1, any K9’s who have been trained to detect cannabis will not be used for vehicle scans, Miller said.
“[Cannabis trained dogs] will still be utilized for community policing events, building searches, searches for missing individuals, and/or suspect apprehension,” Miller said.