Maryland: Lawmakers Eliminate Criminal Penalties For Minor Marijuana Possession Offenses

Maryland lawmakers have given final approval to legislation to eliminate criminal penalties for minor marijuana possession offenses.

Members of the state House of Delegates on Saturday passed the measure by a vote of 78 to 55. Members of the Senate on Monday approved the bill by a vote of 34 to 8. Democrat Gov. Martin O’Malley acknowledged that he intends to sign the bill into law.

The forthcoming law reduces existing penalties for marijuana possession offenses involving ten grams or less from a criminal misdemeanor (presently punishable by arrest, up to 90 days in jail, a $500 fine, and a criminal record) to a non-arrestable, non-criminal fine-only offense ($100 fine for first-time offenders, $250 for second-time offenders).

The new law will take effect on October 1, 2014.

According to a recent ACLU report, Maryland in 2010 possessed the fourth highest rate of marijuana possession arrests per capita of any state in the country.

Maryland’s pending law is similar to existing decriminalization laws in California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont where private, non-medical possession of marijuana is treated as a civil, non-criminal offense.

Five additional states – Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio – treat marijuana possession offenses as a fine-only misdemeanor offense.

Three states – Alaska, Colorado, and Washington – impose no criminal or civil penalty for the private possession of small amounts of marijuana.

In March, lawmakers for the District of Columbia also approved legislation reducing penalties for the possession or transfer of up to one ounce of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by up to 6 months incarceration and a maximum fine of $1,000) to a civil violation (punishable by a $25 fine, no arrest, no jail time, and no criminal record). The measure is subject to a 60-day review period by members of Congress before it can become District law.

Maryland lawmakers on Monday also approved separate legislation amending the state’s existing medical marijuana law, which had been largely nonfunctional. The pending law will allow for qualified patients to obtain cannabis for therapeutic purposes from state-licensed producers and distributors.

12 thoughts

  1. 1. Ten (10) grams is 400 (four hundred) single tokes in a Long-Drawtube One-Hitter. Is it too late to persuade the MD lawmakers to add a smaller possession category? That anyone would need to carry around more than a half gram of herb implies use of H-ot B-urning O-verdose M-onoxide rolling papers which cause behavior and health issues blamed on the cannabis.


    a stealth device for $10? Affordable for persons who today settle for rolling papers because of fear of being caught possessing a more visible utensil?

  2. Wonderful!

    I got busted in Maryland for growing my own. Although, it was obvious I was growing only for my own use, cruel Maryland drug war law prosecuted me as a manufacturer by definition, a felony.

    I was lucky. I had just purchased an acoustic guitar with money I had squirreled away by never eating out or feeding snack machines. If they had found it, they would have confiscated it (read stolen) and used it to prove I was dealing to boot.

    Let’s hope Governor O’malley does sign it. He had been disinclined to do so.

    Hooray for federalism!

  3. Cool now all the senate, lawmakers, congress,and any other political position in maryland(dc) get their pot. But not me, a vet with chronic pain, and other various problems.. You go Murica… You go

  4. Good to see progress on the medicinal side of the equation. We’ll be lucky to see any availability within 2 years. Mexweed, rolling papers are not considered paraphernalia in Md., of which the possession of the device you describe is a separate crime here. You can possess now, can’t vape it, are still subject to search and seizure,(God forbid you own a gun for self-protection), and basically will pay $100 for less than 10 grams. Over an ounce can be charged a felony here, with heavy fines and potential jail time, even for a medical patient. Still, this is progress. Thanks to all involved.

  5. I can hear hippies in the hills singing from here in Texas. I can see the billow of smoke rising from Baltimore… and thats just from the vaporizers!
    Our law makers do realize that not only are we going to be stoned, eating food on the white house lawn this 4th of July that we snuck passed the Secret Service… (hey, the ss has their alcohol and prostitutes, let us have our weed!) …But what is this going to do to the under-21 culture in high schools like Bethesda where many politicians send their kids to school? Do they get the same fines? Do they get no criminal record to place on their college applications?

  6. im glad were making progress but i don’t think its fair they kept paraphernalia illegal… chances are i you get caught with weed your gonna have something to smoke it out off and if you do you’ll probably be arrested for it..

  7. This may not be the ideal decriminalization that everyone wanted, however having this gives everyone a bit more fair of a chance for the daily user.

    As a stage IV cancer patient I applaud those that have long since been involved to finally make something as critical to disease survival much more readily available. Shame insurance won’t cover any of it.

    This is the first steps of many that’s been long overdue.

  8. now,what does this do for drug testing for responsible employees? my company says as long as it is illegal by federal standards then,they will sample hair….some their anything about testing in the legal states? testing is what stops people from consuming responsibly. I have consumed for 32 yrs without dealing with law enforcement but hair testing has damm sure put my quality of life on hold!…what is happening with testing?

  9. Glad to know Maryland has “decriminalized MJ”; I think the “state by state decriminalization is the best way to legalize!

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