Maryland: Lawmakers Advance Decriminalization Expansion Measure

House lawmakers today advanced legislation, HB 550, greatly expanding the pool of marijuana offenders eligible for civil penalties.

Under the measure, which passed the House by a vote of 93 to 44, offenses involving the possession of up to one ounce of cannabis will be reclassified as a civil, rather, than a criminal violation — punishable by a fine only, no arrest and no criminal record.

Under existing law, only possession offenses involving ten grams of marijuana or less are decriminalized. The possession of greater amounts is currently punishable by up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

House Bill 550 now awaits further action from the Maryland Senate.

“Expanding the decriminalization of low-level marijuana offenses allows police and the courts to re-prioritize their resources toward addressing more serious crimes,” said Luke Jones, Executive Director of Maryland NORML and a proponent of the bill. “Minor marijuana possession offenders, many of them young people, should not be saddled with a criminal record and the lifelong penalties and stigma associated with it.”

Maryland lawmakers initially decriminalized minor marijuana possession offenses in 2014. Twenty six states and the District of Columbia have either legalized or decriminalized the adult possession and use of marijuana.