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Maryland Decriminalizes Marijuana

Maryland Decriminalizes Marijuana

And another one bites the dust…Maryland lawmakers decided on Monday to decriminalize marijuana. Adults caught with less than 10 grams will now be issued a citation along the same lines as a traffic ticket. They will pay a $100 fine on the first offense, followed by increasing amounts on the second and third, but that’s about it – jail time will no longer be a possible outcome.

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley was vocal about his intention to sign the law after its approval by the Maryland Senate on Monday. Known for being tough on crime, many may not have expected such a bold move. Previously, he’s been on the opposing side, fighting against decriminalization.

What caused Gov. O’Malley’s change of heart? In a statement he issued, he said:

As a young prosecutor, I once thought that decriminalizing the possession of marijuana might undermine the public will necessary to combat drug violence and improve public safety. I now think that [it] is an acknowledgement of the low priority that our courts, our prosecutors, our police and the vast majority of citizens already attach to this transgression of public order and public health.

One big concern of Maryland legislators and residents alike is the unfair prosecution and harsh sentences that African-Americans suffer when charged with marijuana possession. According to members of the Black Legislative Caucus, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), studies have shown that “African-Americans who use marijuana are twice as likely to be prosecuted for marijuana possession despite usage levels that are no different to whites.”

Although decriminalization isn’t full-on legalization and support, this is a refreshing move for Maryland. Why? Because it shows us that there are lawmakers out there who are seriously considering and questioning their views, who want to represent their constituents accurately and respectfully, who are open to making changes based on proven statistics and research, and who never say never. For that, we have to respect Governor O’Malley and the Maryland lawmakers. Congrats, guys!


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