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Maryland Governor Signs Bill Protecting Parents Who Lawfully Use Marijuana From Child ‘Neglect’

Published May 19, 2023

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The governor of Maryland has signed a bill to make it so the lawful and responsible use of marijuana by parents and guardians will not be construed by state officials as child “neglect.”

Gov. Wes Moore (D) gave final approval to the legislation from Sen. Jill Carter (D) and Del. Nicole Williams (D) on Tuesday.

It will take effect starting on July 1, which is also when the state’s legalization law goes into force and retail sales could begin. After voters approved a legalization referendum at the ballot last year, lawmakers passed a bill to enact regulations for a commercial market that Moore signed earlier this month.

Accordingly, the legislature passed additional legislation last month to provide legal protections for parents and custodians who participate in the market.

The legislation the governor signed works by adding language to statute stating that childhood neglect “does not include the use of cannabis by any parent or individual who has permanent or temporary care or custody or responsibility for supervision of the child,” with certain exceptions.

A caretaker could be found liable of neglect if “the child’s health or welfare is harmed or place at substantial risk of harm” or “the child has suffered mental injury or been placed at substantial risk of mental injury” as a result of parental or guardian marijuana use.

Relatedly, the governor of California signed legislation last year that includes provisions mandating that social workers who are called to investigate child welfare handle parental marijuana use in the same way that they do for alcohol.

Also, a study published last year found that cannabis legalization is associated with at least a 10 percent decrease in foster care admissions on average, including reductions in placements due to physical abuse, neglect, parental incarceration and misuse of alcohol and other drugs.

Back in Maryland, adults 21 and older will be able to lawfully possess up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana and grow up to two plants for personal use starting at the beginning of July.

Regulators are expected to begin licensing cannabis businesses in short order.

Maryland lawmakers also recently approved a separate measure to prevent police from using the odor or possession of cannabis alone as the basis of a search, but the governor hasn’t taken action on that reform yet.


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