Soon, arrest for possession of one or two marijuana joints could result in a civil fine, not jail time, if legislation approved by Maryland’s Senate clears the House of Delegates.
On March 13, a bill backed by Senator Robert Zirkin (D-Baltimore County) which would classify possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana as a civil offense punishable by a fine of no more than $100 received preliminary approval by the state senate. While no criminal charges will be brought against the individual, they will be required to appear in court.
In Maryland there are nearly 47,000 marijuana related arrests each year,
Under the current law possession of the same amount of the drug is a crime that could result in a sentence of up to 90 days in jail.
“Do we want people serving time in jail or being wrapped up in the criminal system for just having small amounts of marijuana?” said Zirkin.
The decriminalization proposition is not the only marijuana related bill that was proposed this session. Others would allow medical training centers to run medical marijuana programs, fully legalize recreational use of marijuana and legalization of medical marijuana dispensaries.
On March 14, the senate unanimously approved a bill to allow caregivers of patients receiving medical marijuana to be exempt from jail time and fines for possession.
“I use marijuana with tobacco to combat arthritis so it shouldn’t be, it shouldn’t be criminalized,” one state resident testified at the Senate hearing.
Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County), who has become a supporter of the media marijuana bill after becoming diagnosed with colon cancer, said “These are not hippie potheads.”