Things Hopkins students need to know about cannabis legalization in Maryland

| June 28, 2023

As of July 1, 2023, Maryland will be one of 23 states that have approved the use of recreational cannabis (or marijuana) for adults over 21. Despite its legalization at the state level, possession and use of cannabis products (anything that contains tetrahydrocannabinol aka THC the substance in the marijuana plant that causes a high), is prohibited on all Johns Hopkins University campuses, in all university buildings, and at university events, regardless of age, amount, or prescription. 

Whether you choose to use this substance or not, this change at the state level could have ripple effects for our campus community. Students, faculty, and staff should be informed about how the new law will impact the student body on and off campus.  

As a note, this document is meant to address general facts about the new law and University policy. If you have a specific situation not addressed here, we encourage you to research it using verified sources. 

Q: Wait, what’s happening? 

A: On July 1, 2023, cannabis (marijuana) will be available for purchase from licensed dispensaries to those 21 or older in the state of Maryland. Cannabis encompasses any product containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the substance in the marijuana plant that causes a “high.” 

The legal amount for personal possession for those 21 and older will be: 

  • 1.5oz of cannabis flower (what users would grind up and smoke) 
  • 12grams of concentrated cannabis (dabs, hashish, wax, oil) 
  • 750mg of THC-containing cannabis products altogether 

Those under 21 possessing any amount of cannabis could face penalties including fines and jail time.  

Being 21 or older and possessing more than the personal amount cannabis can result in penalties from a citation to jail time. 

Q: So if it’s legal, that means it’s safe right? 

A: Not necessarily. There is always a risk when you use any type of drug or alcohol. Cannabis can have a range of negative effects like irritability, anxiety, paranoia, and derealization (a sensation that you’re not in your body). This can be the case for first-time users, long-term users, those that take a large amount of cannabis in any form, or those who mix cannabis with alcohol or other drugs. Dispensaries may provide more information about cannabis products, but it’s still the same drug with the same effect as products purchased before legalization. 

Furthermore, substances bought outside of licensed dispensaries can be contaminated with other, more harmful substances that aren’t easily detected. Even for those 21 years or older, cannabis can still have negative effects like poor sleep quality and worsening mental health symptoms.  

Q: If I’m 21, does that mean I can smoke it wherever I want? 

A: No. According to the new law, you can’t smoke it in a public space. Any space, indoor or outdoor, that is open to the public like parks, sidewalks, public transportation, bars, and restaurants are places where you can’t smoke cannabis. Note also that JHU policy prohibits smoking on all JHU property and campuses, including all campus buildings, residence halls, campus open spaces, and in JHU-owned or -leased vehicles.  

Q: Fine. I won’t smoke it in public, but can I carry cannabis products around with me? 

A: It will be legal to carry cannabis in many places in Maryland under the new law, but cannabis products are completely forbidden on any Hopkins campus, building, or event, regardless of age, legal status, or amount. This is not solely a matter of University policy; it has to do with federal law. 

While the Maryland laws are changing on July, 1, cannabis is still illegal at the federal level and every institution receiving federal funds must comply with federal law, specifically the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act. Hopkins receives federal assistance, implements policies in the Act, and has adopted them into the Code of Conduct. 

Q: What if I have a medical marijuana card? Does that mean I can use cannabis wherever? 

A: No. Even if you have a medical marijuana card, the federal law still applies. That policy includes university housing. If you live in university housing, regardless of age and prescription, use and possession of cannabis is still prohibited

In addition to state law and University policy, it’s also illegal under federal law to take cannabis, medicinal or recreational, over state lines regardless of age, prescription, amount, or legal status in either state. Take that into consideration if you’re traveling to Maryland from another state.   

Q: Okay, so I get the limitations on cannabis use and possession as a student at the university. Do the same rules apply to places I want to get a job or internship? 

A: For jobs and internships outside of Hopkins: federal workplaces and places that receive a certain amount of federal money will enforce the Drug-Free Workplace Act. They may have drug testing as part of their application process and will likely inform you of the Drug-Free Workplace Act before you finalize your application. If you are unsure, you may want to do some research on your own.  

Certain places/fields of employment may require prospective employees or interns to do a drug test and/or be open to them during their employment or internship. These can be for those who work with vulnerable populations like children and the elderly, in a hospital or substance use treatment program. 

Hopkins-related jobs are under the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act. 

Q: CBD (cannabidiol) has been legal for a while. What’s the difference? 

A: Great question! THC and CBD are both cannabinoids, compounds in the marijuana plant that have an effect on the brain and body. THC is the psychoactive compound in cannabis that produces the mood-altering experience or “high.” CBD is a non-psychoactive compound, mostly used for pain management so it doesn’t produce a high. 

 THC and CBD are just two of the 100+ compounds in the marijuana plant that have an effect on the body and the brain. We know the effects of those two compounds and a few others. Because cannabis was criminalized for so long, research on cannabis has been limited, so we don’t know the full effects of those other compounds on the body and the brain.  

Q: What do I do if I’m concerned about my cannabis use or a friend’s cannabis use? 

A: Students can use eCHECKUP TO GO Cannabis, a free, confidential and anonymous tool to help students get a better understanding of the role cannabis plays in their life. (There is also one for alcohol.) 

Health Promotion and Well-Being has an Alcohol and Other Drug Health Educator who can provide education and a supportive and judgment-free conversation about how marijuana works, how use fits with a student’s goals and lifestyle, and build a plan for next steps.  

If you are looking to speak with a mental health provider to talk about substance use, here are some additional resources that might be helpful:  

  • Mental Health Services at the Homewood Counseling Center (410-516-8278). Serves all in-person undergraduate and graduate students and trainees from Krieger (excluding AAP students), Whiting, School of Education, and Peabody. Beginning Fall 2023, in-person students at Carey Business School in Baltimore can also access Mental Health Services at the Homewood Counseling Center. 
  • Mental Health Services-East Baltimore (410-955-1892). Serves graduate, medical, and professional students and trainees at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, the School of Medicine, and the School of Nursing.  
  • Mental Health Services-Washington, DC (443-287-7000). Serves SAIS, Carey DC, AAP, and Engineering for Professionals students. 
  • TimelyCare. Available to all half-time or more degree-seeking students and all trainees, this mental telehealth resource includes on-demand support from licensed clinicians and scheduled counseling.