Gov. O’Malley To Sign Bill Decriminalizing Small Amounts Of Marijuana

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — A busy day in Annapolis Monday. Governor Martin O’Malley will sign off on big changes to the state’s marijuana law, even though there’s still heated opposition.

Linh Bui reports.

Senate Bill 364 is one of more than 100 bills the governor will sign Monday. The bill decriminalizes small amounts of marijuana.

He released a statement, saying in part:

“Such an acknowledgement in law might even lead to a greater focus on far more serious threats to public safety and the lives of our citizens.”

Soon, you’ll face civil instead of criminal penalties if caught with a small amount of pot–small meaning 10 grams or less. You’d get a citation or fine instead of an arrest or criminal record.

The Maryland State’s Attorney’s Association asked the governor to veto the changes, saying flaws in the law pose problems for law enforcement.

“By making it a civil offense, there are real questions about whether police can search people and can search cars should they come up on a vehicle and the odor of marijuana is coming out,” said Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger.

Delegate and gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur sponsored the bill. She supports legalizing marijuana.

“For an adult, making a decision to use marijuana is really no more harmful and arguably less so than alcohol or tobacco and we should treat it that way in our laws,” said Mizeur.

Once signed, the changes take effect Oct. 1, 2014.

Governor O’Malley is also set to sign a bill Monday expanding medical marijuana.

The governor will also sign a bill making tougher penalties for distracted driving that causes serious accidents. It’s called “Jake’s Law” for 5-year-old Jake Owen, who was killed in a crash in Baltimore.

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