Possession of 10 grams or less of pot could soon get Marylanders a ticket with a $100 fine, rather than an arrest and possible jail time.
On Tuesday, the Senate passed, by a vote of 30-16, a bill that decriminalizes possession of a small amount of marijuana, making it a civil offense, punishable by a fine of up to $100.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Robert A. Zirkin (D-Dist. 11) of Owings Mills, builds on legislation from last year that reduced the punishment for carrying 10 grams — about two marijuana cigarettes — or less, though those convicted can still be sentenced to up to 90 days in jail.
Zirkin said the bill is intended to reduce the number of people being thrown into the justice system and in jail for minor possession offenses.
Those ticketed for possession would still have to appear in court, under the proposal.
Some, including Minority Leader Sen. E.J. Pipkin (R-Dist. 36) of Elkton, raised concerns about what kind of message the state is sending to young people by decriminalizing small amounts of pot.
The bill now goes to the House to be considered by the Judiciary Committee.