Maryland Drug Laws
There are various kinds of drug crimes in the state of Maryland. If you have been charged with any of these crimes, you should contact a Maryland drug lawyer who can explain the strength of your case, how the law applies to the facts in your case, and what options are available. Learn more about how a lawyer can help. Below is a brief review of many drug laws in Maryland. We also provide further information on drug distribution, sale, and importation laws here. This is not a substitute for the advice of a Maryland drug lawyer.
Possession of Controlled Substances
It is illegal to possess a controlled substance, unless obtained through a prescription from an authorized provider, or to acquire or attempt to acquire a controlled substance through fraud, deception, or subterfuge. Section 5-601(a). For a list of controlled substances, see the Drug Enforcement Agency website page here.
If an individual is guilty of possession of a controlled substance, not including marijuana, then that individual is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to four years in prison and/or a fine of up to $25,000. Section 5-601(c)(1).
If an individual violates this section by possessing more than 10 grams of marijuana then that individual is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Section 5-601(c)(2)(i).
If an individual violates this section by possessing less than 10 grams of marijuana then that individual guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of $500 or less. Section 5-601(c)(2)(ii).
However, if an individual is guilty of possessing or using less than 10 grams of marijuana, then the law allows the state to consider mitigating factors in determining the penalties. Section 5-601(c)(2). Specifically, it is possible for a defendant to use the following affirmative defenses regarding the use or possession of marijuana:
- The defendant (guilty party) has a debilitating medical condition a physician has diagnosed the defendant with, if:
The physician has a bona fide physician-patient relationship where the physician has an ongoing duty for the care, assessment, and treatment of the patient’s condition (see Section 5-601(c)(3)(i)(3)).
- The defendant has a severe debilitating medical condition that is resistant to conventional medicine, and;
- It is likely that marijuana can provide the defendant with relief (whether therapeutic or palliative) from the debilitating medical condition. Section 5-601(c)(3)(iii)(1).
Furthermore, a defendant may use the affirmative defense that the possession of the marijuana was with intent to use marijuana for medical use by another person who has a debilitating medical condition, and when the defendant is a caregiver for this other person. Section 5-601(c)(3)(iii)(2). These affirmative defenses are prohibited if the defendant (1) possessed more than one ounce of marijuana or (2) was using marijuana in a public place, or (3) was assisting the person for whom the defendant is a caregiver in using marijuana in a public place. Section 5-601(c)(3)(iii)(3).
Under this section, a “debilitating medical condition” is defined under Section 5-601(c)(3) as a chronic or debilitating disease, medical condition, or the treatment of such a disease or condition that causes at least one of the following (and is documented by the physician):
- Cachexia or wasting syndrome
- Severe or chronic pain
- Severe nausea
- Severe and persistent muscle spasms, or
- Any other condition that is also severe and resistant to conventional medicine.
To qualify as a caregiver as the term is used in this section, an individual must be chosen by a patient with a debilitating medical condition to provide medical and/or physical assistance to the patient, including assisting with the medical use of marijuana, and the individual must:
- Be a Maryland resident,
- Be at least 21 years old,
- Be an member of the patient’s immediate family, a spouse, or a domestic partner of the patient,
- Have no prior convictions for any crime of violence,
- Have no prior convictions for violating any state or federal controlled substances law,
- Have no prior convictions of a crime of moral turpitude (any crime that violates community standards of justice, honesty, or good morals– see Wikipedia entry here or US Department of State definition here),
- Have been designated by the patient as caregiver in writing that has been placed in the patient’s medical record prior to arrest,
- Be the only individual designated as caregiver for the individual, and,
- Not be the designated caregiver for any other patients. Section 5-601(c)(3)(i)(3).
If the guilty party convinces the court through the affirmative defenses above that the use or possession of marijuana was a result of medical necessity, then the guilty party faces a penalty of a fine not to exceed $100. Section 5-601(c)(3)(ii)(2).
Using a Weapon During a Drug Trafficking Crime Section 5-621
A “drug trafficking crime” includes any of the offenses mentioned above except mere possession of a controlled substance. Section 5-621(a)(2).
If an individual (1) uses, wears, carries, or transports a firearm, or, possesses a firearm under circumstances sufficient to constitute a nexus to the drug trafficking crime (i.e., hidden nearby) (2) while committing a drug trafficking crime, then that individual is guilty of a felony that is separate and distinct from the primary drug-trafficking crime. Section 5-621(b).
If it is the person’s first offense, then the person faces a felony conviction with five to 20 years in prison, with a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence. Section 5-621(c)(1)(i).
If the person has a prior conviction for this offense, then that person faces a felony conviction with 10 to 20 years in prison, with a mandatory minimum 10-year prison sentence. Section 5-621(c)(1)(ii). Keep in mind, this means that the defendant will face charges and penalties for both the primary drug-trafficking crime and this felony of having a firearm during the commission of the primary crime.
Individuals are subject to enhanced penalties if the individual’s firearm is (1) an assault pistol (see Gun section on page 30), (2) a machine gun (also see Gun section on page 30), or (3) the firearm is equipped with a silencer. Section 5-621(d)(2). If an individual commits such an offense, then the enhanced penalty will be double the mandatory minimum sentence of the crime as described above. Section 5-612(d).
Manufacturing, Distributing, or Possessing with Intent to Distribute Near School
It is illegal for any person to (1) manufacture, sell, distribute, or possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance (2) in one of the following areas:
- On a school bus, or;
- In, on, or within 1,000 feet of any elementary, middle, or secondary school property. Section 5-627(a).
It is not relevant whether school was in session at the time of the offense or whether the property was being used for an activity that was not school-related. Section 5-627(b). If an individual violates this section for the first time, that individual is guilty of a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $20,000. Section 5-627(c)(1)(i).
If an individual has at least one prior conviction for this offense and violates this section, that individual is guilty of a felony and faces penalties of five to 40 years in prison and a possible fine of up to $40,000, with a five-year mandatory minimum prison sentence. Section 5-627(c)(1)(ii).
Furthermore, the sentence received by any defendant for violating this section must be served consecutive to any other sentence imposed. Section 5-627(c)(3).
Using a Minor to Manufacture or Distribute Controlled Substances
It is illegal for any person to (1) hire, use, solicit, or engage a minor (2) for manufacturing, distributing, or delivering controlled substances (3) on behalf of the person (4) in sufficient quantity to reasonably indicate an intent to distribute. Section 5-628(a)(1).
It is also illegal for any person to (1) carry, transport, or otherwise bring a minor into the state (2) while violating this section or committing any drug-trafficking crime. Section 5-628(a)(2). If a person is guilty of violating this section, then that person is guilty of a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $20,000. Section 5-628(b).
How a Maryland Drug Lawyer Can Help
A drug conviction usually carries significant fines and jail time. In addition, a permanent criminal record can harm your employability, security clearance, and education opportunities. A Maryland drug lawyer can represent you and work to mitigate the negative effects of a drug charge by defending you in court or seeking alternate sentencing. Call us today.