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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.

Penalties, Generally

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).

Mitigating Factors

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
  • Seizures
  • 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.

Enhanced Penalties

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.