Montgomery County may press state to decriminalize marijuana paraphernalia

June 17, 2014

A majority of the Montgomery County Council is expected to go on record Tuesday to assert that Maryland did not go far enough when it decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana this spring.

A resolution introduced by Council member Nancy Navarro (D-Mid-County) calls on state lawmakers to follow up by decriminalizing drug paraphernalia as well, making it a civil offense no more serious than adult possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana.

Navarro said the new state law as it stands leaves open the possibility that individuals could be punished more severely for possession of paraphernalia than for the drug itself.

Her concern also stems from the body of evidence that shows drug enforcement falling disproportionately on nonwhites. She cites an ACLU report that African American residents of Montgomery County are 3.2 times more likely to be arrested for simple marijuana possession than whites, even though blacks and whites have been shown by several surveys to use marijuana at comparable rates.

In 2010, African Americans made up 18 percent of Montgomery County’s population, but 46 percent of those arrested for marijuana possession. Nationally, African Americans are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested for simple possession of marijuana.

The sense of the council resolution also says that possession of small amounts of marijuana and paraphernalia by adults should be among the county’s lowest law enforcement priorities.

Bill Turque, who covers Montgomery County government and politics, has spent more than thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Dallas Times Herald and The Kansas City Star.
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