Maryland has decriminalized the possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana. But 10 grams is a lower threshold than the vast majority of states that have eliminated jail time for cannabis possession, many of which use one ounce as the cutoff. As a result, in 2016 at least 4,300 people were criminally prosecuted for cannabis possession in Maryland. SB 127 would raise the threshold to one ounce.
SB 128 would address the problem that people in possession of less than 10 grams are still being criminalized in some jurisdictions by being charged with “possession with intent to distribute” — a felony — based on very limited evidence (like having their cannabis in more than one baggie). In order to address this overcharging, SB 128 would create a legal presumption that people who have less than the amount decriminalized should not be charged with possession with intent to distribute.
Both of these bills are sitting in the House Judiciary Committee, and with the legislative session ending Monday night, lawmakers need to hear from you to ensure the bills get a vote.
If you are a Maryland resident, please ask your delegates to make sure SB 127 and SB 128 pass this year.
Back in 2014, Maryland lawmakers decriminalized the possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana. Unfortunately, in some jurisdictions, people in possession of less than that amount are still being criminalized. Increasingly, some prosecutors are charging individuals with “possession with intent to distribute” — a felony — based on very limited evidence, like having their marijuana in more than one baggie (which could easily be because they purchased it that way or had a few different strains, rather than because they were selling it).
In order to address this overcharging, Sen. Bobby Zirkin, Chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, introduced SB 128, which MPP supported. The bill just passed the Senate 45-1. The bill now goes to the House of Delegates.
SB 128 would simply create a legal presumption that people who have less than 10 grams should not be charged with possession with intent to distribute. Prosecutors could still make the case if there’s evidence of an intent to sell.
Even being arrested for a felony can have serious collateral consequences. For example, some jobs will suspend or fire employees immediately due to a felony arrest. Lawmakers intended to reduce the number of people caught up in the criminal justice system for having small amounts of marijuana — ask them to help fulfill that goal by passing this bill.
Maryland’s legislative session began earlier this month, and there are several cannabis policy issues already on the agenda. MPP and our allies in the Maryland Cannabis Policy Coalition are supporting an effort to let the people of Maryland decide whether the state should tax and regulate cannabis for adults.
Unlike many other states, Maryland citizens can’t collect signatures to put an issue on the ballot. In order for the people to vote on an issue, lawmakers must pass a bill that puts a constitutional amendment on the ballot. We hope that Maryland lawmakers will allow voters to put an end to the ineffective, costly, and unfair policy of cannabis prohibition and replace it with a system that allows adults to lawfully consume a substance that is safer than alcohol.
In other news, the legislative black caucus introduced a bill that would license additional businesses that could go to women and minority-owned businesses in light of a disparity study that found these groups were at a disadvantage in the licensing processes. And Sen. Bobby Zirkin, chairman of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, has introduced bills that would expand Maryland’s decriminalization law, SB 127 and SB 128.
If you are a Maryland resident, please contact your lawmakers and tell them you want the chance to vote on legalization this year.