|Marijuana Small Amount (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
As of the first of this month, a new marijuana possession law took effect in the state of Maryland. The law changed penalties for those caught with small amounts of pot. Officials are hoping the change will free up the courts and streamline misdemeanor possession cases.
Prior laws required up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine for marijuana possession involving less than 10 grams. Now, however, the maximum penalty you will face for this charge is 90 days in jail and $500 in fines.
In May, when Governor Martin O’Malley signed the bill into law, the Washington Times stated the law would also require those cases to be decided by a judge rather than a jury. This would further simplify the process and speed cases along.
“It’s much simpler, it’s much cleaner and we can get people into treatment faster,” said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Jamin B. Raskin. “We should be trying to get people into drug treatment rather than having their cases drag on for a year or two.”
The problem with the way things were, aside from the fact that the state was threatening a far too lengthy sentence for a little bit of pot, was that the imposed sentences rarely lived up to the threat, though the cases would spend months and even sometimes years in progress, clogging the courts with relatively minor cases.
Many states are going the way of more lenient pot possession laws, or all-out decriminalization. Colorado, Washington, and Oregon will all vote in coming weeks to make recreational marijuana legal altogether. But here in Maryland, a little bit of progress is progress nonetheless.
“Anything that we can do to bring more reason and balance into our drug laws will reduce costs in the criminal justice system and prisons and will benefits everybody,” said Sen. Raskin.
It’s all about priorities. When you lessen the amount of time and resources it takes to process a relatively minor pot possession case, it frees up the resources to handle more serious cases. Spending inordinate amounts of money to prosecute people caught with enough marijuana to fill a few joints is hardly worth it.
The bill passed the Senate 41-5 and the House 92-31.
If you are caught with marijuana, or any other drug, you still need an advocate on your side. Criminal convictions stay on your record and can tarnish your image and hinder your ability to find work or even a place to live. If you are charged with a drug offense in the state of Maryland, contact us to discuss your options.