For the second year in a row, a Maryland’s bill to decriminalize the possession of small quantities of marijuana is dead. The roadblock is Del. Joseph F. Vallario, Jr. (D. Prince George’s), the 77 year-old Chairman of the Maryland House of Delegates Judiciary Committee, and a staunch opponent of marijuana law reform.
According to the Washington Post, Vallario believes that decriminalization sends “a bad message to the kids.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/final-day-to-do-list-for-md-lawmakers-includes-bills-on-elections-marijuana/2013/04/08/b78f2ec2-a034-11e2-82bc-511538ae90a4_story.html
Vallario refused to even allow a vote on the decriminalization bill, which would have replaced arrest and prosecution with a civil fine. Decriminalization has already passed the Maryland Senate, for the second year in a row, but the powerful Vallario has refused to allow the decriminalization bill to leave his committee. A similar bill recently passed the D.C. Council and is waiting passage of the 60 day congressional review period before becoming law.
If Vallario spent more time listening to young people, instead of sending them a message, reform might have a chance in Maryland. Instead, Vallario has kicked the can down the road by appointing a commission to conduct a two-year study of decriminalization. If Vallario was interested, he could look to Massachusetts, which successfully decriminalized marijuana five years ago, or any of the other 17 states which have passed decrim. But Vallario, who is a practicing criminal defense attorney, is more interested in preserving the status quo than learning anything new about decriminalization. Maryland is unlikely to move forward as long as he stays around.