Maryland’s marijuana decriminalization law now in effect

While most people might not have realized it, this past Wednesday was a somewhat historic day here in Maryland, as our new law concerning marijuana decriminalization officially went into effect.

Under the state’s amended drug crime laws, those individuals found to be in possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana will be facing penalties akin to a parking ticket, including a citation and a small fine.

This, of course, marks a dramatic departure from the drug laws of the past in which those caught with only a small amount of marijuana faced criminal charges, jail time and an arrest on their permanent record.

While the idea of arresting those with more than 10 grams or more of marijuana, and ticketing those with less than this amount seems fairly straightforward, law enforcement officials have indicated this isn’t necessarily the case.

Indeed, the Attorney General’s Office, the Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention and the Maryland State Police have all been holding training sessions for local police departments to help them prepare for the seismic change in the state’s marijuana policy.

Despite these efforts, officials concede that enforcing the new law won’t be easy in the beginning, as troopers and officers alike will have to rely on their best judgment at the scene, making arrests if they think an amount is over 10 grams and releasing individuals if they find this is not the case on the station house scale.

While marijuana has been effectively decriminalized in Maryland, there are a few important issues for people to keep in mind:

  • It is still considered a criminal offense under state law to carry drug paraphernalia (bongs, pipes, rolling papers, etc.).
  • Possession of any amount of marijuana is illegal under federal law.
  • Penalties escalate with each time a person is ticketed for minor marijuana possession.
  • Minors under the age of 21 will not only be issued a citation and fine, but also be required to complete a drug education program.

If you’ve been arrested for any sort of drug crime — possession, manufacture, distribution — consider speaking to an experienced legal professional as soon as possible to learn more about your rights and your options.

Source: The Washington Post, “Having a small amount of pot in Md. is no longer a criminal case,” Jenna Johnson, Oct. 1, 2014

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