A bill passed yesterday (Mar. 19) in Maryland to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana. If the proposed legislation becomes law, it would reduce the penalty of those found with 10 grams or less of the drug to a $100 fine maximum. The standing law allows up to a $500 fine and 90 days in prison.
For the bill's sponsor State Sen. Robert A. Zirkin, this lax on marijuana possession penalties will help to cease the waste of numerous procedural assets. Last year alone, there were 47,000 arrests for marijuana in Maryland, according to State Sen. Allan Kittleman, a co-sponsor of the bill.
"This bill is about taking what is a criminal, incarcerable offense and making it a civil fine so we're not incarcerating people for having a small amount of marijuana," Zirkin said. "It's a tremendous waste of resources: public defender, prosecutors, judicial and police."
After a 30-16 bi-partisan vote, Maryland lawmakers have expounded on their view of the proposed change. State Sen. Nancy Jacobs had a very personal reason for her vote to pass the bill: her husband, who is a cancer patient. With the invoking of the new bill into law, she would be able to purchase medicinal marijuana for him and face just a civil citation.
"I think it's really important to people with family members who might have cancer to be able to do this," she told the Senate.
The bill is now slatted to be vote on by the state's House, who is also preparing to vote on a separate bill to legalize and tax marijuana. If passed, Maryland would join Colorado and Washington as states that have legalized the drug.