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Senate committee clears marijuana decriminalization

A Senate committee voted 8-3 Friday to approve a measure decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana, sending it to the full chamber next week.

The bill would replace criminal penalties for possession of up to 10 grams of the drug with a $100 civil fine that would be handled much like a parking ticket. Maryland law now makes possession a misdemeanor with penalties of up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. The legislation, which has bipartisan sponsorship, is expected to pass the Senate but faces an uncertain future in the House, which killed it last year after the upper chamber approved it.

The House has a work group studying the broader question of how to treat marijuana in state law, including proposals to allow expanded medical use of the drug.

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