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Possession with intent to distribute drugs, also known as PWID, is a major offense that carries harsh penalties in Maryland. The Maryland Department of State Police reported over 20,000 drug arrests in 2020, with 3,755 cases that involved sales or manufacture of substances.

The consequences for a PWID conviction can vary depending on the type and quantity of substances involved. In addition, PWID charges have undergone changes as Maryland’s drug laws have evolved.

PWID and felony charges

Maryland designates most PWID charges as felonies, resulting in stricter plea options and longer jail terms. The state’s laws lack specifics, granting police officers considerable discretion. According to Maryland law, authorities can charge someone with PWID if they have a quantity of drugs that indicates an intent to distribute. Unfortunately, the statute lacks precise guidelines on factors like drug weight, packaging and appearance.

In some instances, a person might face PWID charges when their actions could have resulted in a lesser misdemeanor possession offense. Police officers sometimes interpret the law broadly. This can lead to more severe consequences for the person facing charges.

Penalties for PWID in Maryland

PWID penalties in Maryland depend on the drug type and the defendant’s prior record.  As of January 1, 2023, Maryland has taken a different approach to marijuana possession cases. PWID charges for marijuana are rare if the amount is under 2.5 ounces with no other signs of distribution, like scales or cash. Cultivating marijuana plants illegally may lead to drug manufacturing charges.

For drugs like PCP or MDMA, the law classifies PWID as a felony. Conviction can result in a five-year prison sentence and a $15,000 fine. Penalties escalate for Schedule 1 or 2 narcotics like heroin or prescription painkillers, with prison sentences lasting up to twenty years. These narcotics can result in PWID charges if law enforcement discovers ten or more gel caps or pills. Fentanyl-related PWID charges carry an additional ten-year penalty.

Only a minority of defendants face the harshest penalties. However, Maryland’s PWID sentencing guidelines often mandate long sentences, even for those with minor criminal records.

Understanding the evolving legal landscape and the ramifications of drug possession is important for Maryland residents.