Earlier this year, we wrote about Maryland’s attempt to lessen penalties for Marijuana possession, including, in some cases, decriminalizing the offense of marijuana possession. A new law is now in the process of easing penalties relating to marijuana even further.
Decriminalization of Marijuana Goes Even Further
In many cases, Maryland has already decriminalized possession of marijuana in small quantities. That doesn’t make it necessarily completely legal, it just means that certain charges for possession are more along the lines of civil traffic violations–there are penalties, such as fines, but they don’t count as actual criminal charges, and there is no risk of arrest. In some cases, such as with those under the age of 18, drug counseling can be ordered.
Now, the Maryland Senate is attempting to pass a bill to increase the amount of marijuana that would be subject to civil fines, from the current 10 grams, to 20 (after 20 grams, marijuana possession or usage would still be a criminal offense).
The bill also would decriminalize possession of drug paraphernalia, which is generally any otherwise legal item that’s being used to carry, store, or use, marijuana. Currently, even though having under 10 grams of marijuana is a non-criminal offense, possession of drug paraphernalia is still a criminal offense.
This is all after Maryland passed a law earlier this year, allowing those with certain prior convictions, including those for marijuana possession that are now non-criminal, to hide the convictions from their records in certain circumstances. It’s not an expungement program, but rather it allows people to petition a court to have records hidden after the expiration of three years from the original conviction.
Bill Does Make Some Drug Usage Illegal
But the bill does have a give and take element, making illegal certain aspects of marijuana usage. For example, it would be illegal to smoke marijuana in the car, or in public. In most cases this would be a misdemeanor.
If it sounds like Maryland is trying to regulate marijuana the same way as alcohol is regulated–not in cars, limiting public usage, etc.–that’s because this very well may be the case. In fact, earlier this year, a proposal to tax marijuana usage the same way alcohol is taxed was proposed. That proposal has not become law.
As of February, 23 states allow marijuana for medical use, and two (Colorado and Washington) allow it for recreational usage. Alaska and Oregon have passed laws that aren’t in effect yet.
Maryland clearly isn’t ready to relax its drug laws to that extent, but these recent changes indicate that there is a realization that the prosecution of generally minor drug offenses, is taxing the law enforcement and penal systems, as well as the courts.
Have you been arrested for a drug offense in Maryland? The criminal defense attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC have extensive experience at all stages of the process representing those who are arrested for any kind of drug or narcotic offense. If you or someone you know was arrested in Maryland, contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today.