State Sen. Allan Kittleman, a Republican running for Howard County Executive, said Wednesday that he's supporting a bill to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana because "it's a public safety issue." 

The bill, co-sponsored by Kittleman and his Senate colleague Sen. Bobby Zirkin, a Democrat from Baltimore County, would make possessing less than 10 grams of marijuana a civil, rather than criminal, offense. People caught with small amounts of pot would be issued a citation rather than going to court. 

Kittleman said the proposal would free up time for police officers to do more important work. 

"There are a lot of police officers that have to come off the streets and have to go to district trials for these cases," he said. "There's hours and hours of police time being spent in court." 

Most of the people who are caught with small amounts of marijuana "are not hardened criminals," he added. 

Kittleman and Zirkin co-sponsored a similar bill last year, which passed in the Senate but failed to make it out of the House's Judiciary committee. 

Kittleman said the bill had a few changes this time around. For one, minors caught with a small amount of pot would still have to make an appearance in court. 

"For a minor, we want them to realize the significance and that it’s still not something we want them to be doing," he said. 

The bill will go through a first reading in the Senate's Judicial Proceedings Committee this afternoon.