New Maryland law aims to decriminalize marijuana

Up until recently, people convicted for possession of marijuana in Maryland could face strict penalties, including imprisonment of up to one year and/or a fine of up to $1,000, according to the General Assembly of Maryland. The consequences could become even steeper upon subsequent convictions. A new bill signed by Governor O'Malley last April is meant to make the possession of smaller amounts of marijuana a civil offense instead of a crime. CBS Baltimore reports that after October 1, people found with less than 10 grams of marijuana can face a civil penalty and possibly drug treatment, rather than the consequences and criminal charges associated with more serious crimes.

Hope for patients needing medical marijuana

In states where marijuana use is still illegal, people with chronic pain, cancer and other medical conditions who find relief from cannabis live in fear of being arrested on drug charges. The new bill gives hope to people like a young mother from Frederick, whose 3-year-old twin sons suffer from Miller-Dieker syndrome, a condition that causes seizures and brain deformities. The mother told the Baltimore Sun that medical marijuana may help to reduce her boys' symptoms. This view was given credibility in a case brought to light by CNN, in which a 5-year-old Colorado girl who was suffering from grand mal seizures so severe and frequent that she lost the ability to walk, talk and eat, was treated with cannabis oil created from a special strain of marijuana. This strain was developed to be low in its natural psychoactive compound and high in another compound containing medicinal properties. After starting treatment, the young girl's seizures were drastically reduced to only two or three a month and she is now able to play, speak and eat.

Despite the hope the new marijuana bill gives to patients and their families, some argue against it, says CBS DC, for the following reasons:

  • People may not be charged for having small amounts of marijuana, but they can still be arrested for possession of drug accessories, such as rolling papers and pipes.
  • It would be difficult to establish whether a person has been previously charged on marijuana possession after it is decriminalized, and therefore difficult to obtain a drug treatment program for those who need it.
  • The law could introduce new complications and red tape regarding whether some people's marijuana use is appropriate or not.

The Baltimore Sun reported in June that arrests for marijuana possession in the state were the fourth highest in the nation. With the new bill, lawmakers hoped to focus authorities' efforts on more serious drug charges and to free up resources for drug treatment programs and educational efforts.

Getting help from an attorney

Whether someone plans to use small amounts of marijuana for recreational or medicinal purposes, the new bill may give many Maryland residents some peace of mind. However, new laws are always open to trial and error, and people may find themselves facing unexpected charges. If this happens, an experienced criminal defense attorney will ensure their rights are protected.