Category Archives: Prohibition

prohibition

Maryland Becomes 21st Medical Marijuana State, and 18th to Decriminalize

Yesterday morning, Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law both the medical marijuana bill and the decriminalization bill, making Maryland the 21st state with an effective medical marijuana program, and the 18th state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The medical marijuana bill expands a program that, while established last year, was unable to get off the ground. The previous law relied on the participation of teaching hospitals, which understandably did not want to be involved with a substance that is still federally illegal. The law signed today will allow registered cultivators to grow medical marijuana and up to 15 licensed cultivators to provide the medicine to patients and dispensaries. This new law will finally provide real access to seriously ill Marylanders.

The decriminalization law removes the criminal penalties for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana, and replaces them with a civil fine of up to $100 for a first offense, up to $250 for a second offense, and up to $500 for subsequent offenses. Third-time offenders and individuals under 21 years of age will be required to undergo a clinical assessment for substance abuse disorder and a drug education program. The measure will officially go into effect on October 1.

This is incredible progress, but our work is not done yet. A September 2013 poll found that 53% of Marylanders support legalizing marijuana for adults 21 and up, and taxing and regulating it like alcohol.

Maryland Decriminalization Bill Headed to Governor

After being approved by the General Assembly on Saturday, a bill that would replace current penalties for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana with a fine passed the Maryland Senate. The bill will now go to Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has indicated he will sign the bill into law. This would make Maryland the 18th state to decriminalize simple possession of marijuana. 

Watch MPP’s Rachelle Yeung talk about this major victory:

Maryland House Votes to Decriminalize Marijuana in Surprise Turnaround

On Saturday, the Maryland House of Delegates overwhelmingly approved an amended version of the decriminalization bill. In a 78-55 vote, the House approved imposing civil fines — not criminal penalties and possible jail time — on those possessing less than 10 grams of marijuana.

The bill now goes back to the Senate for concurrence, before heading to Gov. Martin O’Malley. Gov. O’Malley has previously said he’s “not much in favor” of decriminalization.

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Del. Keiffer Mitchell

Saturday’s vote was the product of lots of hard work from MPP and our allies, both in the legislature and outside of it. Just a few days ago, the House Judiciary Committee gutted the decriminalization bill and replaced it with a task force that wouldn’t report back for two years. Thanks to the leadership from the Legislative Black Caucus and Del. Keiffer Mitchell, we were able to turn the tide. Many thanks to all of our supporters who emailed and called their delegates.

But our work on this long overdue reform is not done. Don’t forget to make sure you’re plugged in to our efforts by liking the Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland on Facebook and following the coalition on Twitter.

Maryland House Judiciary Committee Kills Decriminalization Bills

Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee neutered two marijuana policy reform bills. Instead of considering the proposed policies on their merits, the committee completely amended the content of the bills to create a task force to study the issues. The two bills, SB 364 and HB 880, formerly would have respectively decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana and regulated marijuana similarly to alcohol.

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Rep. Bobby Zirkin

The decriminalization bill, sponsored by Sen. Bobby Zirkin, has passed the Senate two years in a row with overwhelming bipartisan support — most recently, last month, in a 36-8 vote.

The Committee acted two days after D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray signed into law the most lenient decriminalization law in the country, and the same day as a national survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that 76% of Americans don’t think people should be jailed for simple possession.

 

New Jersey Marijuana Prosecutors Reverse Course, Say It’s Time to Legalize

The New Jersey State Municipal Prosecutors Association now officially supports legalizing the possession of marijuana, which is quite an unlikely source of support, since they are the principle group who prosecutes marijuana users in the state.

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Jon-Henry Barr

“Each week, New Jersey police officers arrest hundreds of citizens for the disorderly persons offense of possession of under 50 grams of marijuana,” said Jon-Henry Barr, president of the board of trustees of the Municipal Prosecutors Association. “Those arrested include professionals and many people who would never think of committing any type of serious, victim-related crime.”

In an interview with Kathleen Hopkins from the Asbury Park Press, Barr enumerated the reasons why a strong majority (seven out of ten) of the association wants to support the legalization of marijuana:

• Requests by prosecutors to analyze samples of marijuana are overwhelming the state’s drug-testing laboratories, sometimes leading to dismissals of cases when defendants invoke their rights to speedy trials;

• Studies show that marijuana is less addictive than alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine;

• Marijuana is easier for high school students to obtain than alcohol because the sale of alcohol is strictly regulated;

• Very few of the thousands of DWI cases prosecuted annually are for driving under the influence of marijuana;

• Statistics show that African Americans are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses than white people are, but there is no evidence to show there is disproportionately more marijuana use in minority communities;

• The state loses money by not collecting sales tax on marijuana, while drug dealers profit.

This much-needed support from the New Jersey State Municipal Prosecutors Association comes at a pivotal time in the state’s struggle to define its stance on marijuana. Two bills have recently been introduced; one bill permits citizens to carry an ounce or less of marijuana, while the other sets up a tax-and-regulate system.