- Conflict & Crisis
By Thomas H. Clarke
The Daily Chronic
March 16, 2013
A bill that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana advanced one step closer to becoming law Wednesday, when the bill passed a second reading in the Senate.
The bill now advances to a third reading in the Senate, where the full Senate will vote on the bill’s final form. If passed in the third reading, the bill will advance to the House.
Senate Bill 297, sponsored by Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D-Baltimore County), was approved for passage by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee earlier this month after passing the first reading in the Senate.
If passed, the bill would make the penalties for possession of less than ten grams of marijuana (approximately one-third of an ounce) a civil offense punishable by up to a $100 fine with no time in jail.
Currently, possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana in Maryland is punishable by a fine of up to $500 and 90 days in jail.
Maryland lawmakers are also considering three separate medical marijuana bills, which received hearings at the State House Friday.
During last week’s hearing, Maryland Health Secretary Joshua Sharfstein told lawmakers that Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration supports passing medical marijuana legislation, a reversal in position from last year, when medical marijuana bills were defeated in the General Assembly.
He says that’s because the federal government has not brought charges against any state employees in other states who may have been involved with distributing medical marijuana.
A third proposal, House Bill 302, which would create clear rules for qualified patients and law enforcement, put in place a strictly regulated production and distribution system, and protect patients from housing and workplace discrimination, is favored by medical marijuana advocates.