Does Maryland's marijuana decriminalization have unforeseen consequences?
(WJLA) - When the Maryland legislature decided to decriminalize marijuana and make the punishment for someone smoking a joint akin to a traffic citation, it was listening to a public tired of seeing occasional users saddled with criminal records:
"We have enough people that are homeless...We don't need that anymore," said Barbara Jones.
The legislature also listened to those who have no problem with recreational use.
"I see it the same way I see alcohol...I figure if one is legal, the other probably should be," said Harvey Hauptman.
But apparently, lawmakers did not listen to those who now must deal with the consequences.
“It is difficult to enforce the ways it has been written and passed,” said University of Maryland Police Chief Dave Mitchell, who added that he and his fellow chiefs feel that the law is incomplete:
"It's very difficult for us, we're gonna have to carry scales, the scales are gonna have to be calibrated. If you have less than 10 grams of marijuana, but you have rolling papers, you have a bong, you have a pipe that has residue...all that paraphernalia is still a criminal offense."
"It was my hope that we had more time to discuss it before passing something like this," said P.G. County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks.
She agrees that the new law is full of unanswered questions, calling it "toothless." Maryland’s law sets civil fines for possession of 10 grams or less of marijuana, eliminating the stigma of a criminal conviction for a casual user.
But Alsobrooks worries that it may have other unintended consequences:
“Marijuana is not harmless. I don't care how many times they say it -- it's not harmless to the people I'm seeing who are killing because of it. Many of our young people are dropping out of school on a daily basis, staying home smoking it."
Maryland's decriminalization law will take effect October 1, but don't expect the laws to be liberalized any further at this point. When Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed that bill, he stated that he does not want the state to become a laboratory for experimenting with the legalization of marijuana.