The Maryland House voted 78-55 to decriminalize possession of 10 grams or less this weekend, taking a tiny baby-step forward towards ending criminal penalties for cannabis users caught with less than a quarter-ounce. Those caught with the amount on a first-offense would pay a maximum fine of $100.
The bill now heads back to the Senate, which has already approved a similar bill. The two sides must now hammer out agreements before sending the bill to Maryland Gov. Mike O’Malley for signing. O’Malley hasn’t come out and said he will approve the bill yet, but did say he will try to be open-minded when looking it over.
Currently, possession of ten grams or less is a misdemeanor charge with up to 90 days in jail and $500 in fines. More than ten grams is a misdemeanor charge with up to a year in jail and $1,000 in fines.
According to the House version of decriminalization bill, second offenses would be fined a maximum of $250 and a third offense would cost you $500. Those under 21 busted with 10 grams or less could face drug counseling or awareness classes. The bill would not do anything to change the penalties for more than ten grams.
And even though it’s truly a small amount of marijuana to decriminalize, the anti-pot crowd of course had a complete hissy-fit over the fact that people won’t be facing criminal charges for pot possession anymore.
“House of Delegates, you can do better. Our people deserve better. Our kids deserve a better message, and this is not it,” Del. Michael McDermott, a Republican from Somerset County, told his colleagues.
Drug “expert” Mike Gimbel told CBS Baltimore that decriminalization will equal more people smoking cannabis and, by his logic, ending up as addicts. Gimbel apparently doesn’t get that people who want to smoke marijuana are going to do it, and decriminalizing it doesn’t change that. It just means those people aren’t criminals anymore.
“Every legislator has kids,” Gimbel said. “If they voted for this they should be ashamed of their selves because this is going to hurt our children.”
If the bill is signed, decriminalization of 10 grams or less would begin Oct. 1.