People will be allowed to grow up to four cannabis plants for personal use starting July 1, but retail sales to those age 21 and over will not begin until Jan. 1, 2024. Individuals also can petition to have past marijuana convictions suspended or modified or have their records regarding them sealed, according to the bill.
Unless a person is licensed to have larger amounts of marijuana, possession of more than a pound in a public place remains a felony, while having an amount between an ounce and a pound will be subject to a $25 fine.
Proponents of the measure cite one its biggest financial benefits: a 21-percent tax on retail cannabis statewide and additional taxes imposed by each locality of up to 3 percent. Proceeds will go to programs to help at-risk youth, substance abusers and those in communities disproportionately affected by drug use.
Giles said King George’s narcotics officers see a lot of marijuana and what’s being produced is much more potent than in the 1970s. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, the chemical in marijuana that causes psychological effects, averages about 15 percent and is even higher in extracts, according to the Marijuana Factcheck website.
That’s about triple the potency of earlier days, Giles said. “People who say, ‘Oh, it’s just relaxing,’ they don’t understand that.”
Greg Traber, a private therapist and reformed addict, doesn’t see marijuana as a gateway drug. He said people who started with it in the past might have moved on to stronger drugs because marijuana didn’t do the trick.