Maryland has officially passed a marijuana decriminalization measure, much
to the delight of many criminal defense activists. However, a new set
of problems have cropped up because lawmakers and officers are now having
to deal with legal inconsistencies. The changing nature of
drug offenses in Maryland may lead to some confusion while the measures await official
Official reports show that the new law would still classify marijuana as
an illegal substance. However, those who are found with amounts smaller
than 10 grams of the drug would only pay civil fines rather than facing
serious criminal drug charges. These civil programs would allow drug charges
to be treated like traffic violations. The measure was passed during the
closing days of the legislative session in April.
One of the major inconsistencies in the law is the fact that the possession
of drug paraphernalia is still considered a criminal offense. These can
include rolling paper, pipes and other objects used to consume marijuana.
In other words, once the law goes into effect, some people may be arrested
for possessing the paraphernalia, even though the drug is not criminalized.
Attorney generals in the state say that they must follow the letter of
the law, not just its spirit. The written law may need to be modified
to be more realistic. That is what had to happen in Ohio, according to
some advocates; in that state, paraphernalia was still considered illegal
until just a couple years ago, even though the state had decriminalized
the drug decades ago.
It is important for lawmakers to understand the unintended consequences
of the laws they pass. Criminal defendants will almost certainly benefit
from the new, lenient guidelines for marijuana possession. However, they
may still find themselves in legal hot water after being caught with associated
Source: Herald-Mail Media, “Maryland’s marijuana decriminalization law leads to questions about
inconsistencies” Kaustuv Basu, Apr. 27, 2014