Marijuana law is being reformed in Maryland

769152_laughing_plantMarijuana law reform is underway in Maryland. There are currently three medical marijuana proposals before the state legislature. Two of these will institute a state-run commission for research. The third bill—House Bill 302—requires the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to oversee the regulation of dispensaries. If it passes, patients will be allowed to grow up to six ounces and twelve plants. It also repeals the criminal provision that permits judges to fine people found to use or possess marijuana. According to the Huffington Post, the bill is now backed by Maryland’s Health Secretary Joshua Sharfstein who opposed a similar measure last year.

In addition to medical marijuana reform, ordinary marijuana possession laws have recently changed. Governor Martin O’Mally signed two new laws relating to marijuana in 2012. On October 1, 2012, the maximum penalty for simple marijuana possession of 10 grams or less was reduced to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine. On January 2nd, 2013, a new law took effect that requires that people charged with certain nonviolent criminal offenses, like marijuana possession, face only a citation, rather than jail time.

On top of all these reforms, there’s a new bill on recreational marijuana use as well. House Bill 1453, if passed, would legalize up to 1 oz. of raw cannabis, 5 grams of hash, and 3 marijuana plants for adults.

These rapid changes to ordinary marijuana possession and medical marijuana use may cause significant changes to arrest procedures. Just last month, the Maryland State Police arrested Tauheed Epps, better known as Grammy-nominated rapper 2 Chainz. State troopers stopped Epps in a Ford van for driving 24 miles per hour over the speed limit around 9:20 p.m. Epps was on his way to perform at a homecoming event at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore.

In Maryland, there are specific rules that govern when it is legal for the police to search you, your car or your home. The police can search if they have “probable cause” to believe they might find evidence you committed a crime and there is a search warrant, or if the situation itself dictates that searching is appropriate without a warrant. It is not clear yet how Maryland will handle probable cause in a situation like the police stop of Epps should the various marijuana reform laws pass.

The troopers smelled marijuana and searched Epps’ vehicle based on probable cause. They found traces of marijuana on a grinder in a backpack that Epps claimed he owned. The police arrested Epps, citing him for possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

Afterwards, Epps tweeted about what happened, saying that someone in the entourage advised the police he owned the drugs, but Epps was arrested regardless. Epps also later posted a picture of himself with two troopers on Instagram. “Locked me up then wanted pictures,” he wrote on Twitter. Apparently there is “no specific policy, per se” with respect to Maryland police offers taking pictures with arrestees.

The rules governing marijuana possession and police procedure can be tricky to navigate, especially during these times of great change in Maryland law. If you or a loved one is under investigation for drug possession, hire a qualified and knowledgeable Maryland criminal law attorney who can advise you on your rights today. Contact lawyer Anthony Fatemi and his legal team for a legal consultation. They have years of experience in Maryland criminal defense, including charges involving drugs, handguns, domestic violence, DWI, sex offenses, felony, theft, and assault.

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