ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Grass is getting greener in the Maryland General Assembly, as more lawmakers seem willing to vote in favor of changes to the existing law.
Political reporter Pat Warren has more on a Senate vote on marijuana.READ MORE: 14 Students, 1 Teacher Killed In Shooting At Texas Elementary School, Governor Says
Some of the most emotional testimony in Annapolis this year has centered on marijuana. It comes from people who use it for medical reasons:
“I use marijuana with tobacco to combat arthritis so it shouldn’t be, it shouldn’t be criminalized,” a woman testified.
“These are not hippie potheads,” said Senator Jamie Raskin.
It also comes from people who have been arrested for traces found in their cars:
“What that included was me reporting to a probation officer twice a week, reporting to drug classes twice a week and reporting to Narcotics Anonymous twice a week,” a man testified.
“Do we want people serving time in jail or being wrapped up in the criminal system for just having small amounts of marijuana?” asked Senator Bobby Zirkin.READ MORE: Camp For Seriously Ill Children To Build Second Location On Maryland's Eastern Shore
The Senate Thursday voted unanimously that caregivers whose patients qualify for medical marijuana can be exempted from fines and jail time.
“They have the right also to an affirmative defense in court if they were prosecuted for helping the person use marijuana,” said Raskin.
Zirkin’s bill makes possession of marijuana a civil rather than criminal defense for 10 grams or less.
“About one of two marijuana cigarettes and that’s it,” he said.
Decriminalization and medical use are seen as two very different issues.
“Maybe the citizens of Maryland want it. If they want it, put it on a referendum. Don’t come back every year and incrementally move that way without a vote of the citizens,” said Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin.
The Senate votes on the civil offense bill Friday.
Medical marijuana advocates got another green light last week when Governor O’Malley announced he would support dispensing marijuana from approved medical centers.MORE NEWS: Howard County Secures $75M Loan For 5,000-Foot Tunnel To Divert Floodwater From Ellicott City
A bill legalizing the sale of marijuana will be heard in a House committee next week.