Key Maryland House panel votes to support marijuana decriminalization, changing course

The Maryland House Judiciary Committee reversed course Saturday morning and agreed to support legislation decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana.

With the 13-to-8 committee vote, the full House is likely to approve a bill later Saturday that would impose a $100 civil fine, but no criminal charge, on people caught with less than 10 grams of marijuana for the first time.

A similar measure has already passed the Senate.

Just three days ago, the same House committee shelved a decriminalization bill, instead voting 14 to 5 to study the issue at the urging of its chairman, Del. Joseph F. Vallario Jr. (D-Prince George’s).

Facing intense pressure from the Legislative Black Caucus and other lawmakers who favor loosening marijuana laws, the committee formally reconsidered its position Saturday morning.

Delegates voted to make several changes to the bill that passed the Senate.

The Senate bill, for example, would subject those caught with small amounts of marijuana to a civil fine of $100 regardless of how many previous offenses the person had. Under the House approach, the fine for a second offense would be $250, and the fine for a third and subsequent offenses would be $500.

The House plan also mandates drug treatment and education for first offenders under the age of 21 and for those older than 21 after a third offense.

Leaders of the Judiciary Committee plan to offer the measure it approved Saturday morning as an amendment on the House floor when scheduled debate on its task-force bill resumes.

Floor debate on that bill was halted Friday after Del. Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. (D-Baltimore) offered an amendment that would scrap the task force and restore the legislation on decriminalization.

The Judiciary plan is expected to be taken up by the chamber Saturday instead of Mitchell’s proposed amendment.

Lawmakers are meeting Saturday in advance of their planned Monday adjournment.

John Wagner has covered Maryland government and politics for The Post since 2004.

local

md-politics

Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Local

local

md-politics

Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.