Maryland: Senate Lawmakers Vote To Decriminalize Minor Marijuana Possession Offenses

Maryland: Senate Lawmakers Vote To Decriminalize Minor Marijuana Possession OffensesAnnapolis, MD: Senate lawmakers this week voted 30 to 16 in favor of legislation, Senate Bill 297, to make minor marijuana possession offenses a non-criminal, fine-only offense.

The bill now awaits action from House lawmakers. Members of the House Judiciary Committee are scheduled to hear testimony regarding the bill on Thursday, March 28.

Under present law, the possession of any quantity of cannabis is classified as a criminal misdemeanor, publishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine. Senate Bill 297 makes minor marijuana offenses a non-criminal infraction, punishable by a maximum fine of $100 and no criminal record.

Fifteen states have reduced marijuana possession to a fine-only offense. In nine of these states – California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island (beginning April 1, 2013) – the law defines the private, non-medical possession of marijuana by adults 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. Alaska imposes no criminal or civil penalty for the private possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Similar decriminalization legislation is pending in nearly a dozen additional states, including Hawaii, Missouri, New Jersey, Texas, and Vermont.

On Tuesday, Maryland House lawmakers heard testimony in favor of separate legislation, House Bill 1453, which seeks to legalize the adult consumption of cannabis and regulate the retail production and sale of the plant. NORML’s written testimony in support of HB 1453 is available online here.

Nearly a dozen states are considering similar legalization measures.

For more information, please contact either Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, or Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director, at (202) 483-5500. Additional information on pending state marijuana law reform legislation is available online here: http://norml.org/about/take-action-for-marijuana-law-reform.