MD House Rejects Effort To Strengthen MJ Penalty

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  MD House Rejects Effort To Strengthen MJ Penalty

Posted by CN Staff on February 17, 2016 at 18:29:12 PT
By Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun 
Source: Baltimore Sun 

Maryland -- The House of Delegates turned back a Republican-led effort Wednesday to stiffen a bill that would make it a criminal offense to smoke marijuana in a vehicle.Following lively debate, the House voted 79-53 to reject an amendment that would make it a criminal misdemeanor to smoke marijuana on the Ocean City Boardwalk, in a state park or in other public spaces.
The original bill would have dealt with vehicles and public space issues, but the language on public space was stripped out by the House Judiciary Committee.The fight on the House floor was part of a broader battle over how to treat marijuana amid changing public perceptions of its dangers and the wisdom of jailing people for its use and possession.Public use and possession of fewer than 10 grams of marijuana are currently civil offenses in Maryland. A civil misdemeanor charge would go on a person's criminal record.Del. Mary Beth Carozza, a Lower Shore Republican who offered the amendment, said it would "protect public spaces for our families."As the bill stands after receiving preliminary approval Wednesday, it would make smoking marijuana in a car a criminal misdemeanor, under the same part of law that forbids driving in a car with an open container of alcohol.The charge would be punishable with a fine rather than imprisonment, and the suspect could be given a citation rather than taken to jail.The committee kept language that would make it an offense for passengers, as well as the driver, to smoke in a vehicle.Committee members heard testimony last week that marijuana fumes in a closed car can have an intoxicating effect on the driver. If a police officer determined that a driver was impaired by marijuana, the person could be arrested on that more serious charge.Possession of fewer than 10 grams of marijuana is currently punishable by escalating fines depending on the number of offenses a person commits. Public use of marijuana is punishable by a fine of $500.Wednesday's debate was an echo of one heard last month when the House overrode Gov. Larry Hogan's veto of a bill decriminalizing the possession of marijuana paraphernalia. Critics of the bill said it made it harder to enforce laws against marijuana use in a car or public places.Proponents of a stronger bill said they were promised a fix for those problems at the time of the override. But leaders of the House Judiciary Committee said they decided to deal with the vehicular use issue and the question of public consumption in separate bills.Committee Chairman Joseph Vallario, arguing against the Republican-sponsored amendment, said the panel is still considering three bills that deal with public marijuana use. Vallario, a Prince George's County Democrat, said the stiffer treatment of marijuana use in vehicles stood a better chance of passage in the Senate if it wasn't linked to the other issue.But House Minority Leader Nic Kipke said the House should send the stronger bill. The Anne Arundel County Republican said that while the committee was still considering other legislation dealing with public use, he saw adding the measure to the bill as a matter of "trust but verify.""We were promised a comprehensive solution to this issue and we didn't get it," said Del. Anthony J. O'Donnell, a Southern Maryland Republican.But Del. Curt Anderson, a Baltimore Democrat, said it makes sense to deal with use in a vehicle separately."The other issue will have to stand on its own," he said.Sen. Robert A. Zirkin, chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, said he agrees that people should not be allowed to smoke marijuana in public. However, despite Vallario's prediction, he said the Senate wants a comprehensive bill that deals with public use, smoking in a vehicle and increasing the amount of marijuana that would trigger a criminal possession charge to an ounce. He said an ounce is the standard among other states that have decriminalized the drug.Zirkin, a Baltimore County Democrat, said he could support classifying public use as a misdemeanor – but only if it doesn't carry jail time and could be quickly expunged from somebody's record.Source: Baltimore Sun (MD)Author: Michael Dresser, The Baltimore SunPublished: February 17, 2016Copyright: 2016 The Baltimore SunContact: letters baltsun.comWebsite: -- Cannabis Archives 

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Comment #4 posted by observer on February 22, 2016 at 15:35:18 PT

thanks, Hope!
Hope, I have enjoyed and appreciated reading your comments here over the years, for sure!That bot site keeps on ticking. It has been running for over 12 years now. I'm optimistic our talking points have gotten through - or at least we happened to have glommed onto the ones that did. That same site, has just this week, posted links to two full-length PDF books on the topic of drug war propaganda, now offered for free download.Drug War Propaganda (2003) Madness: Revisited (2008) first one is a 100,000 word polemic; the second one is illustrated. Both will be preaching to the choir, to most folks here.
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Comment #3 posted by Hope on February 18, 2016 at 19:21:22 PT

Oh my word.Bot has grown since I last visited. It's absolutely amazing wonderful.Wow!
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Comment #2 posted by Hope on February 18, 2016 at 18:43:22 PT

Are Jonesing bad. 
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Comment #1 posted by observer on February 18, 2016 at 14:28:57 PT

Which of those Repubs Get Drug War Loot?
Historically, a large percentage of Republicans were once police or prosecutors (like Nixon), or others on the take from the drug war. Truly, such have gotten their livelihood premised, based on their use of the gun - using government guns as crucial instruments against people, using pot as excuse for the guns. Careerist drug-war prosecutors and police live by and because of the guns of government. In other words, they live by the sword. It would be helpful if news articles like this would mention which of the politicians mentioned above are (ex-)police, are (ex-)prosecutors, (ex-)judges, and others who have been careering with government guns, with boot on the face of pot smokers. These are those who live by the sword, swallowing drug war propaganda because it gives them the verbal cover they need to steal, kill, and destroy.Neill Franklin (LEAP) recently gave a good summary of the police/prosecutor issue. I recommend watching that whole talk. 
Re. police and marijuana, see esp. at about the 29:37 minute mark. Several speakers in that conference astutely describe US marijuana laws as the linchpin of the war on drugs, and I agree.
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