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Gov. Martin O’Malley Signs Bill Decriminalizing Marijuana Possession in Maryland

SB 364 makes possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil offense; more than two-thirds of Maryland voters support stronger decriminalization legislation, and more than half of state voters support removing all penalties for adult marijuana possession

* Statement below from the Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland *

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Martin O'Malley signed a bill into law Monday making Maryland the 18th state in the nation to remove the threat of jail time for possession of small amounts of marijuana. The governor also signed a bill that will allow people with serious illnesses to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it.

Senate Bill 364 will make possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana a civil offense punishable by a fine of up to $100 for a first offense, up to $250 for a second offense, and up to $500 for subsequent offenses. Third-time offenders and individuals under 21 years of age will be required to undergo a clinical assessment for substance abuse disorder and a drug education program.

More than two-thirds of Maryland voters (68%) support removing criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana (about 28.5 grams) and replacing them with a civil fine of up to $100, according to a September survey conducted by Public Policy Polling. It also found 53% of Maryland voters support making marijuana legal for adults 21 and older and regulating it similarly to alcohol. The full results are available at www.mpp.org/MDpoll. The results of an annual survey released on April 2 by the Pew Research Center showed a record-high 54% of Americans think marijuana should be legal, and 76% think possession of small amounts of marijuana should not warrant time in jail.

Fifteen other states have decriminalized marijuana possession, and two states — Washington and Colorado — have enacted laws making marijuana legal for adults and regulating it similarly to alcohol. On March 31, Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray signed a bill that replaces criminal penalties for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana in the District with a civil fine of $25.

The following is a statement from the Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland:

“We applaud Gov. O’Malley and state lawmakers for their leadership on this important issue. There is no excuse for criminalizing people simply for possessing small amounts of marijuana. For years, legislators have been coming up with excuses, but this time they came up with a solution.

“Maryland can no longer sustain the costs associated with outdated marijuana prohibition policies. The community has known this for quite some time, and we are pleased to see our elected representatives are doing something about it. Political opinions are finally catching up with public opinion.

“We expect this issue will be taken up again next spring, and we are hopeful legislators will be ready to explore more comprehensive reform. Until marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol, sales will remain uncontrolled and revenues will benefit criminal enterprises instead of legitimate, taxpaying businesses.”

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