ANNAPOLIS, Md. - The Maryland Senate Friday passed a measure that will lessen the penalty of marijuana possession from a misdemeanor to a civil fine, according to a release from the Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland.
The bill passed 36-8 with bipartisan support from Republican Senators David Brinkley, Barry Glassman, Nancy Jacobs, J.B. Jennings, Allan Kittleman, Edward Reilly, and Christopher Shank, the release states.
If passed, the new law would imposed a $100 fine for possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana —similar to a parking ticket, the release states. Minors would face sanctions similar to the charge of underage possession of alcohol.
“Two amendments were accepted that would earmark the money from fines for drug treatment and require a person who is cited for the third time to appear in court where a judge could order drug treatment,” the release states. “Under current Maryland law, possession of small amounts of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.”
“A strong majority of Maryland voters agree people should not face life-altering criminal penalties simply for possessing a substance that is considerably less harmful than alcohol,” Rachelle Yeung, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project,said in a statement provided by the coalition. “Those elected officials who want to continue criminalizing people for marijuana possession need to explain to their constituents why they think it is necessary and what they expect it to accomplish.”
The American Civil Liberties Union reported Maryland had the fourth highest arrest rate in the country for marijuana possession.
“There are 22,000 marijuana arrests a year happening in Maryland, primarily in communities of color,” Sara Love, public policy director for the ACLU of Maryland, said. “Marylanders need law enforcement to focus on more serious crimes and they want our leaders to support reform of our counterproductive marijuana laws.”
A similar bill received a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee Thursday.