ANNAPOLIS, Md. (March 20, 2020) – On Tuesday, the Maryland Senate gave final approval to a bill that would effectively seal the records of certain marijuana possession charges in the state. Enactment of this bill would take another step toward nullifying federal cannabis prohibition in effect.

Del. David Moon (D) introduced House Bill 83 (HB83) in January. The legislation would prohibit the Maryland JudiciaryCase Search from referring in any way to the existence of a case in which marijuana possession was the only charge if it occurred prior to October 1, 2014. The proposed law would effectively seal those records and allow

The Senate passed HB83 by a 46-0 vote. The House approved the measure 115-16. It now moves on to Gov. Larry Hogan’s desk for his consideration.

As introduced, HB83 would have automatically expunged marijuana possession convictions, but that provision was amended out in committee. Nevertheless, the enactment of this legislation would, at least in effect, seal people’s public records, taking away barriers to employment and housing.

The proposed law will not only help some people with prior marijuana arrests and convictions on their records get a new start; it will also further undermine federal marijuana prohibition. As marijuana becomes more accepted and more states simply ignore the feds, the federal government is less able to enforce its unconstitutional laws.

In the past, we’ve seen some opposition to marijuana legalization bills because the new laws generally leave those previously charged and convicted unprotected. The passage of HB83 demonstrates an important strategic point. Passing bills that take a step forward sets the stage, even if they aren’t perfect. Opening the door clears the way for additional steps. You can’t take the second step before you take the first.


Under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) passed in 1970, the federal government maintains complete prohibition of marijuana. Of course, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to ban or regulate cannabis within the borders of a state, despite the opinion of the politically connected lawyers on the Supreme Court. If you doubt this, ask yourself why it took a constitutional amendment to institute federal alcohol prohibition.

When Maryland legalized medical marijuana and decriminalized possession, the state removed a layer of laws prohibiting the possession and use of marijuana, but federal prohibition remains in place. This is significant because FBI statistics show that law enforcement makes approximately 99 of 100 marijuana arrests under state, not federal law. When states stop enforcing marijuana laws, they sweep away most of the basis for 99 percent of marijuana arrests.

Furthermore, figures indicate it would take 40 percent of the DEA’s yearly-budget just to investigate and raid all of the dispensaries in Los Angeles – a single city in a single state. That doesn’t include the cost of prosecution. The lesson? The feds lack the resources to enforce marijuana prohibition without state assistance.

These new laws further undermine prohibition make it that much more difficult for the federal government to enforce it in Maryland.


Enactment of HB83 would ignore federal prohibition and continue the process of nullifying it in practice Maryland.

Washington, Oregon and Alaska were the first states to legalize recreational cannabis, and California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts joined them after ballot initiatives in favor of legalization passed in November 2016. Michigan followed suit when voters legalized cannabis for general use in 2018. Vermont became the first state to legalize marijuana through a legislative act in 2018. Illinois followed suit this year.

With 33 states allowing cannabis for medical use, the feds find themselves in a position where they simply can’t enforce prohibition anymore.

“The lesson here is pretty straightforward. When enough people say, ‘No!’ to the federal government, and enough states pass laws backing those people up, there’s not much the feds can do to shove their so-called laws, regulations or mandates down our throats,” Tenth Amendment Center founder and executive director Michael Boldin said.


Gov. Hogan will have 30 days from the date HB83 is transmitted to his desk to sign or veto the bill. If he takes no action, it will become law without his signature.


Mike Maharrey