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On October 1st, 2014, the state of Maryland officially enacted its law decriminalizing the possession of limited amounts of marijuana. Now, citizens caught in possession of ten grams or less of dried cannabis flower will be subject to a ticket instead of arrest.
First offense tickets will cost $100, while second offenses run $250 and a third ticket (and any after that) will set chronic offenders back $500. While those fines may seem steep, compared to an arrest and criminal record, they’re a very reasonable alternative. Although decriminalization means that people in possession of less than ten grams of cannabis won’t be arrested, they are still breaking the law.
Of course, growing, processing, or selling marijuana is still criminally illegal under the decriminalization law, as is the possession of marijuana paraphernalia. All cannabis being purchased will still be bought on the black market, effectively preventing the collection of sales tax, the enforcement of age restrictions on sales and any semblance of quality control. While this is an excellent first step in the right direction, much more legal reform is still needed.
Some citizens are already expressing concerns that the paraphernalia “loophole” to the decriminalization law will allow law enforcement to continue arresting black Americans in Maryland at a nearly 3-to-1 ratio to their white counterparts when it comes to cannabis. Only time will tell if law enforcement will honor the spirit of the law, or merely the letter of it.
Congratulations to the citizens of Maryland, who can breathe a little easier today, knowing they won’t be arrested for walking around with their stash in their pocket. Keep on fighting for reform!
Photo Credit: Jyothis under (CC BY 2.5) via Wikimedia Commons