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Marijuana paraphernalia decriminalization bill advances

The House of Delegates gave preliminary approval Thursday to legislation that would make possession of marijuana paraphernalia a civil offense, bringing it into line with the state's treatment of small amounts of the drug itself.

Lawmakers acted after adopting an amendment by Del. Mary Beth Carozza, a Republican who represents Ocean City, that keeps possession a misdemeanor when a person is smoking marijuana in public. Carozza expressed concern that police would be left without a charge on which they could arrest people who smoke pot on the Ocean City Boardwalk.

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Del. Curt Anderson, the Baltimore City Democrat who sponsored the bill, said the House Judiciary Committee had decided Wednesday night to accept the amendment because it shared Carozza's concerns about public use. Anderson said the continuation on the criminal treatment of paraphernalia such as rolling papers and roach clips was an omission in last year's legislation that decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana.

If the bill wins final House passage, it would then have to be reconciled with a similar bill pending in the Senate.

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