Fortunately, legislation awaiting action on the House floor would introduce a dose of sanity. H.B. 1835, sponsored by Rep. Cory Williams (D-34), would make first and second offense possession of marijuana a misdemeanor. Subsequent offenses would remain a felony, but the possible jail time would be reduced to a maximum of five years.
Although this change is modest, it is still a significant improvement over the status quo. It’s a change that makes both common sense and fiscal sense. It would mean fewer adults would be jailed simply for choosing to use a substance less harmful than alcohol. It would also free up prison space for people who commit serious and violent crimes.
Sometimes in this movement, it’s feast or famine. Right now in Maryland, we’re feasting. Yesterday, the media was busy covering a hearing on legislation to tax and regulate marijuana and the Maryland Senate passing legislation to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. Today, they will be writing about committee votes all but certain to lead to medical marijuana legislation passing in Maryland.
Late last night, I received word that the House Judiciary and Health & Government Operations (HGO) Committees each approved legislation to set up a first-of-its-kind medical marijuana program in Maryland. The votes were overwhelming: 22-1 in HGO and 17-4 in Judiciary. I’m very optimistic, but let’s leave nothing to chance. If you live in Maryland, please ask your delegates and senators to vote “yes” on H.B. 1101. The bill isn’t perfect — marijuana will only be provided through academic medical centers, and it will take some time for the program to be implemented — but this is a big step forward. What’s important is that medical marijuana will be in the hands of doctors, not dealers, and people with debilitating illnesses will no longer be thought of as criminals.