MD General Assembly Votes To Decriminalize Marijuana - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

MD General Assembly Votes To Decriminalize Marijuana

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MARYLAND - On the final day of the 2014 General Assembly, Maryland lawmakers voted to decriminalize marijuana in the state.

The 38-8 Senate vote came without any debate Monday afternoon, according to Senator Rick Colburn (R) of District 37, after House Delegates passed the measure Saturday, making the possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana a civil, rather than criminal offense.

"The war on drugs has become a war on marijuana, and principally, a war on those who have small amounts of it, and that's an incredibly inefficient use of resources," says Dr. Tim Dunn, professor of Sociology at Salisbury University.

Local law enforcement has been outspoken in their opposition of decriminalization.  47 ABC spoke to Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis back in February, toward the beginning of general assembly on the subject.

"There has rarely been an instance where I have intercepted millions of dollars in heroin or cocaine destined for the streets of Maryland where those individuals have not been in possession of small amounts of marijuana in their pockets," said Sheriff Lewis.

While in support of loosening the reins, lawmakers stress, this isn't legalization.

Users under 21, caught with 10 grams or less, would go to court, and possibly face drug treatment.

For those over 21, a first offense would equal a citation, but second and third offenses would come with $250 and $500 fines and the possibility of drug treatment.  A step in the right direction says Dr. Dunn, "so, it's still a serious matter, but it is going to take some real education and outreach."

Supporters pushed for the legislation in part to combat the apparent racial disparity associated with arrests for marijuana possession.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, while blacks and whites used marijuana at similar rates, in 2010 blacks were about three times more likely to be arrested for possession.

In a statement soon after the vote, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley says he plans to sign the bill once it comes across his desk.

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