America's war on drugs is full of small battles going on in individual states. Many Maryland residents are aware that voters in Washington state and Colorado elected to legalize marijuana in the last election, though the drug is still illegal under federal law. This discrepancy has created considerable friction between local and federal law enforcement agencies, as well as frustration among dispensary owners and users. Other states have legalized medical marijuana only, making the national conversation about this recreational drug all the more confusing -- but also very interesting.
Here in Maryland, some legislators are pushing to decriminalize marijuana possession. District 11's Sen. Bobby Zirkin, a Democrat, has introduced a bill that would reduce the penalty for possession of 1 ounce or less to a civil fine of $100. It's another chapter in the slow but steady move toward legal acceptance of the drug. Last year Gov. Martin O'Malley signed a bill into law that reduced the criminal penalties for marijuana possession of more than 10 grams from a year in jail and a $1,000 fine to just 90 days and a fine of $500.
A primary argument for the decriminalization and legalization of pot, both in Maryland and nationwide, is the savings in time, money and police manpower devoted to enforcing drug laws. Legalization advocates say that marijuana is much less destructive and addicting than drugs such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine, but they admit that it could take several more years to convince enough members of Congress that federal marijuana laws should be changed. Marijuana legalization opponents are quick to point out that all previous efforts have failed.
Federal lawmakers in favor of decriminalizing marijuana aren't giving up, however. Following up on a joint effort by Reps. Barney Frank and Ron Paul to decriminalize pot nationwide, two other U.S. representatives -- Jared Polis, D-Colorado, and Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon -- have introduced bills that would regulate marijuana like alcohol and create a federal excise tax on the drug.
Until marijuana becomes legal to use and possess in Maryland, those accused of possessing, using and/or attempting to distribute it need to realize the consequences of a drug conviction. Because a felony charge still has the potential to damage your future, mounting an aggressive defense is crucial until the state and national laws change.
Source: The Daily Record, "Effort building to change U.S. pot laws," Feb. 4, 2013
- Our firm works with Maryland residents who are facing drug charges. To learn more about our practice, visit our felony and misdemeanor drug crimes page.