A new law that decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of marijuana in Maryland takes effect Wednesday.
The bill, Senate Bill 364, will replace the penalty for possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana with a civil fine instead of a criminal offense.
Instead of arrest and a potential 90 day jail sentence under the current law, starting on October 1, 2014, offenders will be issued a fine, the amount of which varies from $100 for a first offense to $250 for a second and $500 for any subsequent offense.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D-Baltimore County), was passed in the final hours of the 2014 legislative session in March.
The new law, however, does not decriminalize the possession of paraphernalia, including pipes, papers, vaporizers or bongs, meaning that a person caught smoking a joint technically could be arrested for the rolling paper but not the marijuana inside.
Lawmakers have said that they will consider eliminating paraphernalia penalties next year.
This year, Maryland lawmakers also passed a bill to create a comprehensive medical marijuana program, expanding on a 2013 bill that was heavily criticized as “unworkable” by medical marijuana patients. That bill, Senate Bill 923, took effect June 1. - The Daily Chronic