Marijuana Decriminalization Takes Effect Today
In the past, anyone in the state of Maryland who was caught with a small plastic bag of marijuana would face criminal charges, including the potential for jail time and a criminal conviction on their record. With the stroke of the clock at midnight, however, all of that changed as the state’s new marijuana decriminalization law took effect Oct. 1. Now, those who are found in possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana face a civil citation and fine similar to those handed out for parking tickets.
For a first offense, the fine is to be no more than $100 and can rise up to $500 for a second or third offense. Prior to today, an arrest for possession of less than 10 grams would have resulted in a misdemeanor criminal charged that carried the possibility of a $500 fine, 90 days in jail, or both. See SB 364.
The pot law is one of many new laws and ordinances that took effect today in Maryland. Preparation for decriminalization, however, has involved extensive work on the part of state authorities, law enforcement, and members of the legal community. Determining acceptable possession amounts proved challenging, as did the issue of whether possession of related paraphernalia would remain a crime (it does). This includes items such as rolling papers, pipes, bongs, and other accoutrements. In addition to defining the lesser offense, state authorities also had to establish new training programs for law enforcement agencies tasked with enforcing the laws in Maryland.
It is important that we note that federal law still holds the possession of marijuana is a crime. Therefore, if you are at a federal park or other site that is under the jurisdictional control of the federal government you may still be charged with a crime. Additionally, the new Maryland law also requires that anyone under the age of 20 who is found with less than 10 grams of marijuana will not only face a fine but will have to attend a drug education program.
Other new laws that took effect in Maryland on Oct. 1 include:
Jake’s Law, which strengthens penalties for distracted driving. Anyone who is found to have been texting or reading messages while driving and who causes an accident that kills or seriously injuries another person or people will face penalties up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.
Revenge Porn is now a criminal offense that can result in a misdemeanor charge and is designed to provide added protection for victims of harassment due to broken relationships.