Maryland House votes to decriminalize marijuana
Correction (April 7): The correct number of amendments introduced was six. GOP delegates had said there were 40, a number that was circulated on social media until the actual six were introduced.
After hours of debate – including multiple postponements of the vote – marijuana is now decriminalized in Maryland.
The bill passed through the state Senate, earlier in the 90-day session, but stalled in the House until the delegates voted on Saturday 78-55 to impose civil fines rather than criminal sanctions against anyone caught with less than 10 grams of marijuana.
On Monday, the Senate will vote again on the measure because of amendments added to the decriminalization bill in the House.
Del. Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. (D-Baltimore) told The Washington Post that he supported the bill because of the disparity among races in sentencing for possession crimes.
“We’re sending the message that we’re not going to allow small amounts of marijuana possession to ruin the lives of our young people,” Mitchell said to The Washington Post.
Opponents of the bill were trying to stall the vote on the bill because supporters out-numbered them in the House. Six amendments were proposed to the bill to continue debate on the issue.
Del. Michael A. McDermott (R-Wocester) also told The Post that he believed the bill was rushed through the House, and not enough time was taken to consider the consequences of the new rules.
“Our kids deserve a better message, and this is not it,” McDermott said.
The bill appeared to be dead in the House after the House Judiciary Committee had voted to create a task force to study the issue of decriminalization for two years.
However, the committee eventually reconsidered after receiving backlash from other delegates, and the same committee voted to approve the law.
Amendments to the bill changed the fine from $100 every time someone was caught with marijuana, to $250 for a second offense and then $500 for any offenses after that.
Another amendment also requires anyone under the age of 21 to be considered for drug treatment, as well as anyone over 21 who is caught for a third offense.