ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — The Maryland Senate votes to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, while a House committee considers legalizing as much as an ounce.

Political reporter Pat Warren has more on possible changes to marijuana laws.

The marijuana debate has expanded beyond medical uses to recreational ones. The Maryland Senate approved a bill that reduces small amounts of marijuana from criminal possession to a civil fine Tuesday. A bill in the House goes even further.

“Cigarettes are legal. Alcohol is legal. Both, by far, are more dangerous drugs than marijuana,” said Delegate Curt Anderson.

The bill legalizes the sale of marijuana to adults 21 and older. It removes all penalties for possession of up to one ounce and allows adults to grow up to three plants.

The comptroller would license retail stores, wholesale facilities and testing facilities and collect a tax on the sale.

“We’re making our kids criminals. We’re taking away their school funding. We’re ruining their lives over this plant,” said Candace Junkin.

Junkin and others testified in favor of the bill.

“It’s just been too many people going to jail. I’ve been jailed for it myself and they make you think you’re a drug addict when you’re not necessarily a drug addict [for] using marijuana,” said William Reilly.

But the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association takes a different view.

“One, it’s still a federal offense. Number two, we’ve been telling kids for 20 years that marijuana is a gateway drug. Now, all of a sudden, we’re reversing that,” said Chief David Morris.

Supporters argue the laws are heavy-handed, clog the court system and impact futures.

“A lot of young people get records that stay with them for the rest of their lives and it shouldn’t be that way,” Anderson said.

The prospects of any of the marijuana bills making it through both chambers and to the governor’s desk for his signature remain uncertain.

A Senate bill decriminalizing marijuana up to 10 grams now moves to the House.

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