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Maryland Cremation Laws

Saying goodbye to your loved ones will never be an easy thing. Funerals will always be emotional events, regardless of whether it’s a traditional burial or one where the departed has been cremated. Cremation has become an increasingly popular choice as of late, with the rationale behind this likely due to its relative affordability compared to traditional casket burials, as well as simple personal preference.

If you are considering cremation for a loved one, you should know that every state, including Maryland, has different approaches to how cremation can be handled. Here’s what you need to know about Maryland cremation laws. 

An Overview of Cremation Laws in Maryland

Maryland's cremation laws are relatively straightforward. They're also relatively unrestricted in most cases. The law says nothing about how cremated remains can be kept or scattered, though the Maryland Department of Health and Hygiene does urge people living in the state to be responsible with any in their possession.

This means most options are available to you when it comes to memorialization. When it comes to a cemetery, cremated remains can be laid to rest in a crypt or cremation niche, they can be buried at a grave site, or they can be safely scattered in designated areas cemeteries have for exactly this purposes, known as a scattering garden. Any of these options allow mourners to grieve, remember, and reflect in the peaceful scenery of a well-maintained cemetery.

If you are considering an option outside of a cemetery, Maryland does allow for ashes to be scattered on your own private property. The state's cremation laws state you should not scatter on the property of others without first seeking permission from the landowner. Otherwise, there are no significant state-wide laws to this effect.

Of course, there are some faith-based rules that may need to be followed. Most religions treat memorialization differently, and there may be specific requires based on a certain faith, such as Catholicism preferring that cremated remains be placed within a casket and buried in the ground.

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1 Scattering Over Land

Maryland Cremation Laws for Scattering Over Land

As stated above, Maryland law offers standard guidance on how and where land-based burials and scattering can take place. These include stating that there are no limitations on choosing to scatter (or bury) the deceased on your own private property. When it comes to the private property of others, though, this is another matter - if you don't seek consent from the property owner you are technically trespassing and could be subject to civil or criminal action. In other words, please ask first.

When it comes to land-based scattering on public property, Maryland state law is relatively permissive. There are no specific rules banning it, but it's a good idea to check both city and county regulations and zoning rules before scattering on local public land owned by a state entity. This is because local authorities can and often do limit the ability of individuals to spread cremated remains on state-owned properties. On a federal level, it's up to the U.S. government, not the state of Maryland, to decide if spreading ashes is permitted on federal land. Some U.S. national parks may allow scattering if you seek permission beforehand.


2 Scattering Over Water

Maryland Cremation Laws for Scattering Over Water

With the Chesapeake Bay dominating the state's landscape, Maryland is largely defined by its connection to the Atlantic Ocean. Much commerce, culture, and entertainment is tied to the state's maritime activities, and this means that scattering a loved one at sea is an attractive choice for many families.

The Chesapeake is largely regulated by federal authorities and laws like the Environmental Protection Agency and the federal Clean Water Act. These regulations require all cremated remains to be spread at least three nautical miles from shore, and the EPA must be informed 10 days afterward. For the Potomac River, the Susquehanna River, or any other lakes, ponds, streams, or rivers in Maryland, you should check with either the EPA directly or any state agency that may manage that body of water, to see if you need a permit before scattering remains.


3 Other Ways to Scatter

Other Ways to Scatter Cremated Remains in Maryland

If you do not wish to scatter a loved one's remains over land or sea, another option is the air. There are no direct cremation laws in Maryland that prohibit the scattering of ashes from altitude, which can be done from an aircraft or even a weather balloon.

However, you must be extremely careful when dropping cremated remains from a height, and especially from an aircraft height, as federal aviation guidelines require you to not drop anything that could harm people or property. Cremated remains themselves are not considered a hazardous material by the U.S. government, but you would not be the first person to accidentally drop a container while saying goodbye to a loved one.


Maryland Cremation Laws for Scattering Over Land

As stated above, Maryland law offers standard guidance on how and where land-based burials and scattering can take place. These include stating that there are no limitations on choosing to scatter (or bury) the deceased on your own private property. When it comes to the private property of others, though, this is another matter - if you don't seek consent from the property owner you are technically trespassing and could be subject to civil or criminal action. In other words, please ask first.

When it comes to land-based scattering on public property, Maryland state law is relatively permissive. There are no specific rules banning it, but it's a good idea to check both city and county regulations and zoning rules before scattering on local public land owned by a state entity. This is because local authorities can and often do limit the ability of individuals to spread cremated remains on state-owned properties. On a federal level, it's up to the U.S. government, not the state of Maryland, to decide if spreading ashes is permitted on federal land. Some U.S. national parks may allow scattering if you seek permission beforehand.


Maryland Cremation Laws for Scattering Over Water

With the Chesapeake Bay dominating the state's landscape, Maryland is largely defined by its connection to the Atlantic Ocean. Much commerce, culture, and entertainment is tied to the state's maritime activities, and this means that scattering a loved one at sea is an attractive choice for many families.

The Chesapeake is largely regulated by federal authorities and laws like the Environmental Protection Agency and the federal Clean Water Act. These regulations require all cremated remains to be spread at least three nautical miles from shore, and the EPA must be informed 10 days afterward. For the Potomac River, the Susquehanna River, or any other lakes, ponds, streams, or rivers in Maryland, you should check with either the EPA directly or any state agency that may manage that body of water, to see if you need a permit before scattering remains.


Other Ways to Scatter Cremated Remains in Maryland

If you do not wish to scatter a loved one's remains over land or sea, another option is the air. There are no direct cremation laws in Maryland that prohibit the scattering of ashes from altitude, which can be done from an aircraft or even a weather balloon.

However, you must be extremely careful when dropping cremated remains from a height, and especially from an aircraft height, as federal aviation guidelines require you to not drop anything that could harm people or property. Cremated remains themselves are not considered a hazardous material by the U.S. government, but you would not be the first person to accidentally drop a container while saying goodbye to a loved one.


Other Maryland Cremation Laws

As demonstrated above, Maryland cremation laws do not place many limitations on how you choose to scatter the remains of loved ones. Instead, federal laws are the ones that tend to be most applicable, but these laws are nationwide and not specifically related to Maryland. The only local laws that may need to be observed are those for specific cities and counties, if any, and for seeking consent from private property owners to avoid trespassing charges.

It can certainly feel intimidating to determine if laws not stated here apply to you. For that reason, we recommend reaching out to a memorial planning expert at a local cemetery. You can explore a list of Maryland-based cemeteries to find one that can help you.

References:

Keene, V. A. (2019c, July 22). Burial and Cremation Laws in Maryland. Www.Nolo.Com.
https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/burial-cremation-laws-maryland.html

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