MARYLAND: A state legislator will try again in 2014 to make the possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil rather than a criminal offense in the state of Maryland.
Sen. Robert A. Zirkin (D-Dist. 11) of Owings Mills said he will “absolutely” introduce a bill that would decriminalize marijuana in the 2014 General Assembly session, according to the Gazette.
Zirkin recently said that he wasn’t sure if his new bill would have substantial changes from the one he introduced in 2013, which made possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana punishable by a fine of up to $100, according to the Gazette.
Under current law, a person in possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana faces up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. A conviction for possession of over 10 grams can result in up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.
NORML, an advocacy group working to decriminalize marijuana use, reports that in March, the Senate voted 30 to 16 in favor of Zirkin’s Senate Bill 297, to make minor marijuana possession offenses a non-criminal, fine-only offense. The legislation went to the House and failed to come up for vote in the House Judiciary Committee.
Fifteen states have reduced marijuana possession to a fine-only offense, according to NORML.
In nine of these states – California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, Oregon and Rhode Island – the law defines the private, non-medical possession of marijuana by adults as a civil, non-criminal offense.
Five additional states – Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio – treat marijuana possession offenses as a fine-only misdemeanor offense. Alaska imposes no criminal or civil penalty for the private possession of small amounts of marijuana.
In 2013, Zirkin’s was one of several marijuana-related bills introduced.