The Maryland legislature approved a bill decriminalizing the possession of ten grams of cannabis or less earlier this week, and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley says he will not stand in the way.
Maryland becomes the 18th state to decriminalize marijuana on some level.
O’Malley, who has said in the past that he didn’t favor lessening marijuana penalties, seems to have turned over a new leaf. He says the bill represents a more compassionate view towards cannabis users and also shows law enforcement where their priorities should be.
|Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.
“As a young prosecutor, I once thought that decriminalizing the possession of marijuana might undermine the Public Will necessary to combat drug violence and improve public safety,” O’Malley said in a release. “I now think that decriminalizing possession of marijuana is an acknowledgement of the low priority that our courts, our prosecutors, our police, and the vast majority of citizens already attach to this transgression of public order and public health. Such an acknowledgment in law might even lead to a greater focus on far more serious threats to public safety and the lives of our citizens.”
The move saw the support of several community and civic groups including the Black Legislative Caucus. But not everyone in the state was on board. The decriminalization bill was predictably targeted by law enforcement, though their case wasn’t helped much when Anapolis Police Chief Michael Pristoop cited a fake news story about 37 deaths in Colorado on the first day of legal sales as fact in a legislative hearing.
Others, like Maryland drug “expert” Mike Gimbel, argued that decriminalization would hurt Maryland children. Apparently arresting and charging them with misdemeanor crimes with up to 90 days in jail and a stain on their record was just fine with him, however.
The bill goes into effect Oct. 1 and makes the possession of ten grams of cannabis or less a civil infraction. First-time offenders would pay a fine of no more than $100. Second-time offenders would be fined up to $250 and repeat offenders after that would face fines up to $500 and mandatory drug education courses.