From the Litigation Practice.

Marijuana in Maryland: Adult-Use Cannabis Complicates the Legal Landscape for Employers and Employees

October, 2023  | By Zachary D. Schlein

Zachary SchleinOn July 1, 2023, Maryland joined 22 states and the District of Columbia in allowing adults 21 and older to purchase cannabis products for recreational use (in limited quantities and from licensed dispensaries), via the Cannabis Reform Act (HB556/SB516). Green thumbs in the blue crab state may also cultivate up to two cannabis plants in their homes out of public view.

Although the move to “legalize” recreational cannabis has not yet carried a majority of states, medical marijuana is currently legal in three-fourths of the country (or 38 states) – by analogy, enough states to ratify an amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

While America’s most popular illicit substance may be winning the war on drugs, battles over the consequences of “legal” cannabis use – for individuals and businesses alike – are sure to intensify as marijuana becomes more potent and marijuana use more widespread.

For one, the possession and use of marijuana remains illegal under federal law, notwithstanding the great majority of states that allow for its consumption (whether for recreational or medical purposes). And state laws are themselves often inconsistent or vague in terms of the line between legal and illegal cannabis use, as well as the consequences of otherwise legal marijuana consumption in the contexts of employment discrimination, housing, and child custody disputes, to name but a few.

Particularly vexing is the problem of reliable and accurate marijuana testing for employees in the shipping and transportation industries. Unlike alcohol and other drugs, marijuana’s active ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), can remain in the body for weeks or more depending on the frequency of cannabis use, making it difficult to assess real-time impairment with traditional tests of blood, hair, or urine. Blunt and unreliable testing protocol may exacerbate historic labor shortages, at the same time that the proliferation of legal cannabis increases risks of workplace impairment, injury, and employer liability.

As Maryland’s executive and legislative bodies and the Maryland courts continue to define the boundaries and consequences of “legal” cannabis use in this state, the attorneys at Semmes stand ready to assist individuals and employers attempting to navigate the legal haze.

If you have questions about how Maryland’s marijuana laws impact your business, contact attorney Zachary Schlein at zschlein@semmes.com.