Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has given his final approval to a legislative bill that decriminalizes the possession of up to ten grams of pot in his state, putting the offense on the same level as a traffic infraction.
“The marijuana decriminalization bill will make it easier for law enforcement to focus on higher priority crimes & drive down violence in MD,” the governor tweeted after signing the bill.
People caught on a first-offense with ten grams or less will face a fine of no more than $100 starting Oct. 1, 2014.
“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 last week. “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.”
Maryland is now the 18th state to decriminalize marijuana possession on some level. Second-time and third-time offenders face increasing fines up to $500, and drug awareness courses could be court-ordered for some caught more than three times.