OCEAN CITY – With adult-use cannabis sales now in effect, local officials are reminding community members of new regulations involving possession and smoking.
In November, Maryland voters approved a referendum to legalize adult-use marijuana. And last Saturday, the sale of recreational cannabis took effect, with many dispensaries across the state reporting higher demand and record sales.
Throughout the first weekend of legalization, for example, the Maryland Cannabis Administration reported $10.4 million in medical and adult-use retail sales. On Saturday alone, retail sales totaled $4.5 million, with adult-use sales accounting for more than 78%.
For local dispensaries, the legalization of adult-use cannabis sales brought with it new customers. At Positive Energy in West Ocean City, owner Lyndsey Odachowski said business boomed.
“We certainly saw a huge influx of customers but can happily say the overall visit time for someone was a total of 35 minutes or less (which included checking in, shopping, & paying),” she said. “The Maryland Cannabis Administration has done a great job ensuring a smooth roll out for a historical day. Legalizing cannabis for adult-use just further normalizes this wonderful plant.”
Odachowski said preparations for adult-use sales had allowed operations to run smoothly throughout the weekend.
She said licensees also work hand in hand with the state to ensure they remain compliant.
“They have also ensured we have Maryland Cannabis Administration inspectors to reach out to in the event we have any questions or need any clarification,” she said. “I really appreciate that the cannabis products accessible to adult-use consumers go through the same strict testing as medical cannabis products. Also, everything is still grown, processed, and independent state lab tested in Maryland and follows the same seed-to-sale tracking software used in the Medical Program. We do not save any information from adult-use customers – we only need to validate they are 21 years or older by checking their government issued photo ID.”
In Ocean City, the Ocean City Police Department has launched an aggressive online campaign to inform residents and visitors of new cannabis laws in Maryland. OCPD Deputy Communications Manager Ashley Miller said the biggest change would be the quantity an individual can now legally possess.
“The Ocean City Police Department will continue to strictly enforce cannabis laws in compliance with the law,” she said. “While Maryland voted to legalize some amounts of cannabis use and possession, the Cannabis Reform Act has left members of our community unsure of what is legal and what is illegal.”
As of July 1, adults ages 21 and older can legally possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis, 12 grams of concentrated cannabis, cannabis products containing 750 milligrams of delta-9-THC, or two cannabis plants. Miller said civil or criminal penalties will apply for possession in excess of those limits.
“Another change is Maryland House Bill 1071 prohibits a law enforcement officer from initiating a stop or search of a person, motor vehicle, or vessel based solely on the specified types of cannabis-related evidence,” she said. “In addition, it prohibits a law enforcement officer from searching specified areas of a motor vehicle or vessel during an investigation of a person solely for driving a motor vehicle or vessel while impaired by or under the influence of cannabis.”
Miller added cannabis smoking is prohibited in any motor vehicle or public place, including outdoor and indoor spaces open to the public, parks, streets and sidewalks, bars and restaurants, public transportation, and indoor places of employment.
“Because cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, you also may not possess cannabis on any federal property such as a national park,” she said. “Specifically, in the Town of Ocean City, this includes the Boardwalk and beach. You are not allowed to smoke cannabis in the designated smoking areas located on the Boardwalk and beach.”
Last month, the Mayor and City Council also took several actions to address the legalization of adult-use cannabis. In addition to prohibiting the issuance of on-site cannabis licenses, officials voted to establish a moratorium on the acceptance or processing of applications or site plans or the issuance of other zoning approvals or business licenses for businesses that grow, process or sell cannabis.
Officials said the temporary ban would allow town staff to study and consider zoning and other regulations permitted under the Cannabis Reform Act.
“Our new governor signed that act into law on May 3 of this year and subsequently towns, municipalities, counties are permitted to adopt certain zoning regulations that work in conjunction with that act,” City Solicitor Heather Stansbury said in June. “This council, I believe, was very diligent in its efforts and direction in having staff look into that. But the reality is this is a new horizon. This is not a matter without tentacles and of course this council’s primary concern is for the safety, welfare and health of not only its residents but its visitors.”
Additional information on new cannabis laws can be found by visiting the Maryland Cannabis Administration website.