Today Maryland residents will no longer be hauled off to jail for simple marijuana possession charges. Senate Bill 346 was signed back in April and officially went in to effect today. The bill makes a substantial difference in Maryland’s marijuana laws, making possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana punishable only by fines.
The civil fines are similar to a traffic violation where the first offense results in a $100 fine, the second increases to $250, and all following citations result in $500 fines along with clinical assessments and drug education programs. The civil infraction of possessing marijuana is not permanently stamped on your criminal record like it has been in the past. Before Bill 346 went into effect, simple possession punishable by up to a hefty 90 days in jail.
Senator Bob Zirkin (D) spearheaded the bill with hopes that the state will be able to use tax dollars more effectively. “A colossal waste of resources can be better spent on drug treatment and drug education,” Zirkin remarked. “It’s a recognition that what we’re doing right now has not worked,” said Zirkin. It’s refreshing to hear this sentiment from state Senators, but a shame that over 30 Billion dollars had to be spent on the drug war before our elected officials were able to admit it’s ineffectiveness.
Even Maryland’s governor, Martin O’Malley, expressed his progressive views saying, “Decriminalizing possession of marijuana is an acknowledgement of the low priority our courts, prosecutors, & police attach to this issue.” With less time spent on making marijuana users into lifelong criminals, Maryland law enforcement should now be able to focus on violent crimes.
photo credit: Politico