Despite an attempt by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan to continue bringing the criminal hammer down on those caught in possession of marijuana paraphernalia, those caught with pipes, bongs and other smoking devises no longer have to worry about being sent to jail.
On Thursday, the Maryland legislature, dominated by Democratic forces, took precedence over a number of the governor’s vetoes, including a bill that would have allowed the possession of drug paraphernalia to remain a criminal offense. Both the House and Senate locked in a fiendish override to Hogan’s rejection of last year’s proposal intended to strengthen the scope of the state’s decriminalization laws.
Although Maryland moved to decriminalize the possession of marijuana in 2014, the bill did not come attached with a provision that allowed paraphernalia to be treated in the same manner. Senator Bobby Zirkin attempted to fix this oversight last year with the introduction of Senate Bill 517—a proposal intended to bring some balance to the decriminalization law by removing the criminal penalties for the possession of all things associated with the consumption of cannabis.
While the measure was welcomed with open arms in both the Senate and House of Delegates, things took a turn for the worse once it landed on the desk of Governor Hogan. The bill was ultimately rejected, mostly because the governor said he was concerned that “state and local law enforcement would be left with no authority to make a traffic stop if they see someone smoking marijuana while driving.”
During this week’s hearing, opposing lawmakers not only reverberated Hogan’s concerns, but they also compounded them by suggesting that a veto override would create a raucous scene of people getting high in the streets.
Delegate Herb McMillan, who so eloquently spewed a cornucopia of stereotypes in an attempt to prove his point—calling booze hounds “Bubba” and stoners “Jeff Spicoli"—said that going against the veto would force those caught drinking in public to go to jail, while “Spicoli can take the piece of paper he was given by the police officer, make a doobie out of it and smoke it.”
Supporters argued that it does not make sense to have policies decriminalizing marijuana possession and still maintain the criminal penalties on items such as baggies, jars and smoking devices.
In the end, common sense reigned victorious. The new law will take effect in 30 days.
“The continued criminalization of paraphernalia in practice meant that people with small amounts of cannabis were still being arrested throughout the state, sometimes for nothing but the plastic bag containing the cannabis,” the Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland said in a statement. “This unfortunate shortcoming will now be fixed, thanks to the courage and support of our lawmakers.”
(Photo Courtesy of The Daily Chronic)