Police host public meeting May 21 to address confusion regarding new marijuana law

The new state law decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana will be the focus of the May 21 quarterly meeting hosted by the Hampstead Police Department's Advisory Council.

Quarterly meetings, started by Police Chief Ken Meekin about 15 years ago, are held on the third Wednesday of February, May, August and November

"We wanted to give people who may have a concern or question about public safety a venue to find out what is going on and to talk to the chief," Meekin said. "We try to bring resources there to educate."

Residents of Hampstead as well as those in other areas of Carroll County are invited to the 7 p.m. meeting at the Town Hall, 1034 S. Carroll St. in Hampstead.

The May 21 meeting will feature Deputy State's Attorney Edward Coyne from the Carroll County State's Attorney's office.

"Chief Meekin asked us to give the town and the police information about marijuana and the new laws," Coyne said. "Any meeting when something new comes up is helpful to inform the public or citizens."

The new marijuana laws, especially, are in need of explaining, Coyne said.

Under current law, the penalty for possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana is a fine up to $500, up to 90 days in jail, or both.

When the law goes into effect on Oct. 1, the possession of 10 grams of marijuana will no longer carry a criminal penalty, but a civil fine of up to a $100 for the first offense and up to $250 for a second offense. A third offense is punishable by a fine up to $500 and a requirement to attend a drug education program along with a referral to an assessment for substance abuse.

The measure passed the state Senate, 34-8, with Sen. Joseph Getty from Carroll voting against. The House of Delegates voted 78-55 in favor with Carroll County Dels. Donald Elliott, Susan Krebs and Justin Ready voting against.

Unfortunately, Coyne said, the law doesn't address several issues.

"Drug paraphernalia, the items used to smoke marijuana, are still illegal," Coyne said. "It is a short-sighted law. They didn't finish thinking of all the angles."

Coyne said he hopes he is able to answer all questions people may have.

"It is uncharted territory," Coyne admitted."Some of the questions I may have to get back to...because it is unknown."

Past discussions have offered citizens information about what to do if the power goes out due to a storm and signs of drug use, Meekin said.

All of the advisory meetings are insightful, according to Carolyn Griffin, administrative assistant for the Hampstead Police, who also takes all the notes during the advisory meetings.

"It's been very beneficial over the years," Griffin said. "It is a two-way street. They help us out with information and we, in turn, inform them of the latest things."

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