Criminal charges and jail time are now a thing of the past for marijuana possession in Maryland. The drug has now been decriminalized, reports The Washington Post.
Most of the usual stipulations apply. The drug is still a civil offense. For the first offense, users have to pay a fine of $100, for the second, $250, and then finally $500 for a third offense. However, officers cannot mandate that users produce identification when issued a citation, so authorities have no way to track the number of offenses. This effectively leaves authorities with no enforcement mechanism.
Users have to be over 21 and cannot have more than 10 grams at a time. Those under 21 caught with the drug will have to pay a fine, attend court, and be forced to take part in a drug education program. Federal law still prohibits marijuana, but now in Maryland, marijuana will be treated more like a parking ticket and less like a criminal offense by police who have been trained to deal with drugs and drug paraphernalia.
Under the new law, drug paraphernalia is not decriminalized. Lawmakers have stated they will consider addressing the issue of paraphernalia next year.
Officers have to eyeball the amount of marijuana to determine if it is over or under 10 grams, as they will not carry scales. If deemed necessary, the officers can take the user back to the police station to measure the amount by scale.
Maryland prosecutors opposed the move, owing to the endless series of complex legal questions that will now follow.
“This has opened up this huge can of worms, and these issues are being discussed in every police department and state’s attorney’s office across the state,” said Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger.
Neither smoking in public nor driving under the influence of drugs has yet been addressed by the legislature through Senate Bill 364.
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