In an historic Saturday session, the Maryland House of Delegates passed the state’s first bill decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana. Possession of up to 10 grams will be treated as a civil infraction – no arrest and no prosecution. Maryland’s vote comes just 5 days after D.C. Mayor Vince Gray signed a bill decriminalizing of up to 28 grams of weed in D.C. DC’s bill still needs to pass congressional review, and Maryland’s must be signed by Governor Martin O’Malley. So for now, even small amounts of marijuana remain illegal in both jurisdictions. But this is incredible progress.
In Maryland, decriminalization had been held up for years by the powerful chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, 77 year-old Rep. Joe Vallario. Last year, decriminalization passed the Maryland Senate, only to be killed in Vallario’s House committee. The Senate decriminalization bill faced the same treatment this year, where Vallario would not allow the measure to come to a vote, and instead voted to study the measure for two years.
But a dedicated group of reformers in the House, lead by Curt Anderson, Keiffer Mitchell, Heather Mizeur and Aisha Braveboy, fought on, demanding that the full House address the bill, which it did in an unusual Saturday session. The final vote in favor of decrim was 77-to-55.
Now only Virginia stands in the way of a trifecta. Stay tuned.