Maryland now joins 17 other states in the removal of the threat of jail time for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Gov. Martin O'Malley signed Senate Bill 364 into law Monday, making the possession of less than 10 grams oif marijuana a civil offense.
The bill makes possession of marijuana of less than 10 grams punishable by a fine up to $100 for the first offense; $250 for a second offense and up to $500 for subsequent offenses.
Three-time offenders and those under the age of 21 will be required to obtain a clinical assessment for substance abuse disorder and complete a drug education program.
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“Maryland can no longer sustain the costs associated with outdated marijuana prohibition policies.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.”
Governor O'Malley also signed a bill that will allow those with serious illnesses access to medical marijuana, as approved by a doctor. With the signing of that bill, Maryland becomes the 21st medical marijuana state.