As lawmakers in Annapolis continue to consider whether to loosen Maryland's marijuana laws, a bipartisan pair of senators plans to introduce a proposal Wednesday to decriminalize possession of small amounts of the drug.
"We're not trying to encourage people to smoke pot," said Baltimore County Democrat Sen. Bobby Zirkin, who is leading the effort. "I don't think that having a joint should be a jail-able offense. I don't think that's the definition of a crime."
Under the bill, it would not longer be a crime to have less than 10 grams of marijuana – a proposal that cleared the Senate last year but didn't get a vote in the House of Delegates.
Instead, the proposal calls for making marijuana a civil offense that could result in a ticket for adults and drug treatment for minors.
Republican Sen. Allan Kittleman of Howard County is a co-sponsor of the measure and said he hopes to keep out of courtrooms testifying for minor drug offenses. "They're losing hours and hours of time that could be put toward protecting public safety," he said.
Kittleman, who is running for county executive, said he's decided against co-sponsoring a separate measure that would legalize marijuana, regulate it and tax it like alcohol.
He said that while it's important for the state to debate whether to drop the long standing prohibition of pot, some parts of the proposed legalization effort concern him. In particular, he said, advocates want to include a provision to expunge the criminal records of people convicted of possession charges. Kittleman said he objected to that because people convicted of those crimes knew it was illegal at the time.