Maryland lawmakers vote to decriminalize marijuana

State lawmakers in Maryland’s House of Delegates voted Saturday to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

The state’s Senate has already approved a similar measure – but some changes made by the House would still need to be approved by the Senate in order to pass the bill before the legislative session ends at midnight Monday…

Some of the “decriminalized” penalties are crap and overblown. No doubt to be reduced at a later date.

Maryland’s Democratic governor will review the bill if it passes the General Assembly, said Nina Smith, a spokeswoman for Gov. Martin O’Malley…

Republicans had introduced several amendments to the bill – such as requiring a public service campaign highlighting the dangers of smoking, or letting it remain a criminal offense to smoke pot in public. None of the measures made it through.

“We don’t have to notify the public that they’re not supposed to use marijuana,” said Delegate Kathleen Dumais, D-Montgomery. “It’s still illegal.”

Much of Saturday’s debate focused on whether decriminalization would encourage teens to smoke marijuana…

Dumais said a better way to deal with drug abuse is to encourage treatment, rather than imprisonment.

Arguments in support of the bill tended to focus on racial disparities in drug law enforcement. The American Civil Liberties Union found last year that black people in Baltimore are 5.6 times more likely than the city’s white residents to be arrested for marijuana possession.

Golly gee. Maryland politicians actually noticed that racial disparity, eh? Must be gaining slightly better vision – along with a touch of backbone.

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