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Marijuana paraphernalia bill advances

Marijuana pipes and bongs poised to be decriminalized.

State lawmakers gave final approval Saturday to a bill that decriminalizes the possession of marijuana paraphernalia and sets a fine for smoking marijuana in public.

The move comes after lawmakers last year decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. But last year's law didn't cover pipes or other devices used to smoke marijuana.

The bill also sets a maximum penalty of a $500 civil fine for anyone found guilty of smoking marijuana in a public place. Currently there is no penalty.

The House of Delegates voted 84-52 to support the bill on Saturday. It already had been approved by the Senate.

Sen. Bobby Zirkin, a Baltimore County Democrat who sponsored the measure, said the bill attempts to do some "cleanup" following last year's bill.

"We made the possession of marijuana a civil offense, but the hardware used with it is still criminal, so you had this disjointed law that didn't make any sense," he said.

Zirkin's bill removes marijuana smoking devices from the law governing possession of drug paraphernalia.

Another bill that deals with other issues related to small amounts of marijuana is likely headed to a conference committee on the General Assembly's final day on Monday, Zirkin said.

That bill, from Baltimore City Democratic Del. Curt Anderson, includes the same provisions in Zirkin's bill, plus it sets penalties for using marijuana while driving and increases the amount of marijuana that's considered punishable by only a civil citation.

Currently, having up to 10 grams of marijuana merits the civil citation. Anderson's bill would raise it to 20 grams, though Zirkin would like to have the law go further to 1 ounce.

"Ten grams does not make any sense," Zirkin said. "It's a very arbitrary number that's hard for the police to decipher."

Gov. Larry Hogan has not taken a public position on the bill to decriminalize paraphernalia. 


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