Maryland lawmakers move to decriminalize marijuana

Gov. O'Malley expected to sign into law

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Maryland lawmakers Monday approved a bill that would decriminalize the possession of "small" amounts of marijuana.

In a release, Gov. Martin O'Malley signified his intent to sign the bill into law. 

 “With more effective policing and more widely available drug treatment, together in Maryland, we have driven violent crime down to its lowest levels in 30 years," O'Malley said in statement released to the media. "This progress has been hard-won and much remains to be done. Recent spikes in homicides and heroin overdose deaths underscore the life-saving urgency of the work before us."

A number of marijuana-related bills were up for debate in Annapolis this year, including the full legalization of marijuana and legalizing marijuana use for medical reasons. The Maryland Senate passed the decriminalization measure 34-8 with five abstaining votes. 

The new law will alter the penalty of possessing up to 10 grams of marijuana from a criminal offense to a civil offense, subject to a fine of up to $100. Repeat offenders however could be subject to a court appearance and could be sentenced to drug treatment or drug awareness education classes. 

Offenders caught with more than 10 grams would be punished by the state's current criminal proceedings for marijuana possession. 

“Our State's current marijuana laws are costly, ineffective, racially biased, and they result in a permanent blot on the records of too many of our young adults," Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said in a statement. "By decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana, we will be able to put our law enforcement resources where they belong: going after the real and violent crime in our communities.

"We have a responsibility to root out the biases in our justice system, and this legislation will make that system fairer, ensuring that all Marylanders are treated equally and all of our young people have the same opportunity for a brighter future.”

Stay with ABC2 News for additional details.

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