Yesterday was a significant day for marijuana reform in Maryland, where a marijuana decriminalization bill took effect. There is still a lot of work to be done in Maryland until full legalization is achieved, but this is a great step in the right direction. Below is a press release from the ACLU talking about yesterday:
ANNAPOLIS - Legislation adopted this year to remove criminal penalties for marijuana possession in Maryland will go into effect on Wednesday. Maryland joins 17 other states and the District of Columbia that have decriminalized or legalized marijuana possession. In addition, Missouri passed a similar bill this year, which will make it the 19th state to do so when it goes into effect.
Senate Bill 364 makes possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana a civil offense punishable by a fine of up to $100 for a first offense, up to $250 for a second offense, and up to $500 for subsequent offenses. Third-time offenders and individuals under 21 years of age will be required to undergo a clinical assessment for substance abuse disorder and a drug education program.
Statement from Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and a 34-year veteran of the Maryland State Police:
"Decriminalization will free up law enforcement officials' time and allow them to focus on more pressing issues than marijuana possession. It will address some inequalities in our justice system, but, until we fully legalize and regulate marijuana, sales will continue to be conducted by criminals in an underground market. Until that happens, we are not going to see the public safety benefits that are possible in a post-prohibition world."
Statement from Sara Love, public policy director for the ACLU of Maryland:
"Decriminalizing possession of marijuana is a key step on the road to saner drug policy in Maryland. For too long, tens of thousands of Marylanders, disproportionately Black Marylanders, have faced life-altering criminal penalties simply for possessing a substance most voters believe should be legalized. Going forward, we hope that legislators will seriously consider sensible legislation to regulate and tax marijuana."
Statement from Rachelle Yeung, legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project:
"Maryland's marijuana policy is headed in the right direction. Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and it should be treated that way. Removing criminal penalties for possession is a good start, but, when it comes to adults using it responsibly, there's no reason why there should be any penalty. It's time to take marijuana out of the underground market, regulate it, and start taxing it like alcohol."
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The Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland includes the ACLU of Maryland, CASA de Maryland, Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, Demand Progress, Equality Maryland, Job Opportunities Task Force, International Women's Cannabis Coalition-Maryland Chapter, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, League of Women Voters of Maryland, Libertarian Party of Maryland, Maryland Green Party, Marijuana Policy Project, Maryland Justice Project, Maryland NORML, Maryland United for Peace and Justice, Medical Cannabis Advocates of Maryland, Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches, Maryland State Conference, Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition, Montgomery County Young Democrats, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union Local 400, and Veterans for Peace, Phil Berrigan Memorial Chapter.
Learn more at http://www.MarijuanaPolicyInMd.org.