Marijuana Decriminalization Fix Bill Passes General Assembly, Heads to Governor’s Desk
* Statements below from legislators, coalition leaders *
ANNAPOLIS — Legislation to remove criminal penalties for possession of marijuana paraphernalia was approved by the General Assembly with bipartisan support in both chambers prior to the close of the legislative session on Monday. SB 517 was passed by a vote of 32-13 in the Senate last week and will now go to the desk of Gov. Larry Hogan for approval. Sponsors argued that this legislation would help clarify current Maryland marijuana laws.
Senate Bill 517, sponsored by Sen. Bobby Zirkin, would fix an omission in the decriminalization law passed last year by removing criminal penalties for possession of marijuana paraphernalia. It would also create a penalty for consuming marijuana in public — a civil fine of up to $500. Advocates defeated efforts to impose a criminal penalty for public marijuana consumption.
QUOTES FROM LEGISLATORS AND COALITION PARTNERS:
“I am excited about the passage of marijuana paraphernalia decriminalization. The support for further progress on this important issue was overwhelming and bipartisan. Over the past two years I am proud that we have moved for more sensible laws on this issue, stopping the mass criminalization of citizens, and focusing our attention on strategies that work like drug treatment,” said Del. Bobby Zirkin (D-Baltimore County).
“Arresting people and saddling them with a criminal record for possessing marijuana paraphernalia is a tremendous waste of government resources,” said Del. Christian Miele (R-Baltimore County). “This bill will reduce unjust, destructive prosecutions and is a step forward for criminal justice reform.”
“The Libertarian Party of Maryland applauds the effort to decriminalize paraphernalia possession associated with small amounts of marijuana,” said Eric Blitz of the Libertarian Party of Maryland. “While we hope it is a small step forward towards the important goal of completely ending marijuana prohibition in Maryland, we know that public opinion in our state is overwhelmingly in support of removing criminal penalties.”
“The intent of legislators and their constituents was clear when marijuana was decriminalized last year: Marylanders should not be criminalized for low-level marijuana violations,” said Don Murphy, a former Republican delegate in Maryland who now serves as deputy director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Governor Hogan should sign this bill because closing the loophole will clarify the law and ensure police aren’t wasting time going after people for simple possession of marijuana or paraphernalia.
“In addition to closing the loophole, this would increase the deterrent for smoking marijuana in public, by imposing a fine of up to $500.”