In October of last year Maryland decriminalized minor marijuana possession, meaning that people caught with small amounts of the drug faced only a civil penalty and were no longer burdened by a potential criminal record. However, for people who were convicted of possession prior to decriminalization they still carry around a criminal record for what the state no longer considers a crime. Now, according to the Daily Record, one Maryland lawmaker has introduced a bill to expunge those convictions. The proposal comes on top of another recently introduced bill that would legalize recreational marijuana use in the state.
The first bill would apply to people who had been convicted of marijuana possession before minor possession was decriminalized on October 1. Those people would have their marijuana convictions expunged given that the crime that they were convicted for is no longer a crime in Maryland.
The lawmaker behind the proposal says that people who were convicted prior to decriminalization are placed at an unfair disadvantage. A criminal record can make it difficult to find employment or apply for scholarships, for example. Those are burdens that people who simply paid the civil penalty for possession after October 1 do not have to deal with.
Expunging convictions is just one bill dealing with marijuana law that legislators are looking at this session. Another bill, according to the International Business Times, would go further than last year’s decriminalization effort and legalize recreational marijuana use in the state outright. The bill, HB 911, would treat marijuana similarly to alcohol and, its supporters claim, has the support of the general population.
If the bill passes, people over 21 years of age would be able to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to six plants for personal use. The cultivation and sale of marijuana would be regulated by the state, allowing the government to tax it and earn income from its sale. While the bill has support in the assembly, analysts say it may have a more difficult time passing the senate.
Maryland’s drug laws are continuing to evolve, but for the time being the legal situation remains very much in flux. State and federal drug laws often diverge, which can create considerable confusion and uncertainty for ordinary citizens. Furthermore, other drug crimes are treated just as seriously by police and prosecutors as ever before.
People who are facing a drug charge need the help that only experienced legal representation can provide. A criminal defense attorney should be contacted as soon as possible to help deal with a drug or other criminal charge and help protect the rights of the accused.
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