Maryland is on the path to decriminalize marijuana effective October 1, as per a bill signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley last April. The new law changes the punishment for small amounts of marijuana from potential jail time to a civil fine.

Under Senate Bill 364, the penalty for possession of 10 grams of cannabis or less is, for the first offense, a $100 fine. A second offense will result in a $250 fine. On the third offense, the fine is raised to $500, the violators will have a court appearance, and may be ordered to attend a drug treatment program.

“The system doesn’t really change other than we’re not going to be criminalizing individuals with small amounts of marijuana,” said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Bobby Zirkin. “I think putting some 23,000 people through a criminal justice system is just a colossal waste of resources, which can be better spent on affecting behavior.”

Gov. O’Malley — despite facing pressure from local law enforcement and prosecutors not to sign the bill — explained that he signed because very few people convicted for marijuana actually went to jail, though their arrests and conviction records may still follow and hinder them through life.

Sources:

http://www.leafly.com/news/headlines/maryland-to-decriminalize-cannabis-effective-october-1st

http://baltimore.cbslocal.com/2014/04/14/gov-omalley-to-sign-marijuana-decriminalization-bill/

Photo Credit: Woody Hibbard

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