Maryland Senate to Vote on Marijuana Decriminalization Today

Maryland Senate to Vote on Marijuana Decriminalization Today

ANNAPOLIS, MD — A bill that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana has been scheduled for a third reading and a vote by the Maryland Senate today.

The bill, Senate Bill 297, would make the penalties for possession of less than ten grams of marijuana (approximately one-third of an ounce) a civil offense punishable by up to a $100 fine with no time in jail.

Currently, possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana in Maryland is punishable by a fine of up to $500 and 90 days in jail.

The bill was approved for passage by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee earlier this month after passing the first reading in the Senate, and passed a second reading in the Senate last week.

If the bill passes the third reading today, as expected, it would be sent to the House of Delegates for review.

“We don’t want to wrap people up in the criminal jail system for this,” the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Robert A. Zirkin (D-  Baltimore County), said at last week’s hearing, where the bill met little resistance or opposition.

The House of Delagates, meanwhile, have been considering a bill that would legalize the possession of marijuana by adults 21 or older, and establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed like alcohol.

That bill, House Bill 1453, awaits action by the House Judiciary Committee.

Maryland lawmakers are also considering three separate medical marijuana bills, which received hearings at the earlier this month.

During  hearing on the medical marijuana bills, Maryland Health Secretary Joshua Sharfstein told lawmakers thatGov. Martin O’Malley’s administration supports passing medical marijuana legislation, a reversal in position from last year, when medical marijuana bills were defeated in the General Assembly.

A Democratic stronghold, Maryland has legalized same-sex marriage and abolished the death penalty. Marijuana law reform, at some level, is not far behind.