MARYLAND

Montgomery Co. officials introduce legislation to make marijuana offenses lowest priority

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ROCKVILLE, Md. (WJLA) - Montgomery County lawmakers at a press conference Tuesday recommended that marijuana-related offenses should be the lowest priority for police and state attorneys.

Montgomery County lawmakers introduced legislation Tuesday that would make prosecuting marijuana-related offenses the lowest priority.

The recommendation would also close a loophole in the law which left out the decriminalization of possessing drug paraphernalia.

In April, Governor O’Malley signed a senate bill into law which decriminalizes marijuana and will take effect on Oct. 1. The law will make a first-offense penalty for possession of marijuana by anyone over 21 years old result in a civil fine of $100.

"I think we have to change the way that we do police work, and marijuana should not be something we should be pulling people into the criminal justice system for," said Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Riemer.

Seven of the nine Montgomery County Council members have supported a resolution to further decriminalize local marijuana laws.

The Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office has also signed on to this measure. They agreed to drop charges for individuals, 21 and older for first-time marijuana and/or paraphernalia possession, so long as the individual paid $100 to the state.

In 2013, Montgomery County had 4,181 total drug offenses, 3,629 of which were for the simple possession or use of drugs.

"It's a big part in acknowledging that it's time to stop making people criminals, and it's time to start helping people," said Councilwoman Cherri Branson.

The resolution also calls on state leaders to follow Montgomery County's example, hoping the state will follow suit.

When asked if Montgomery County would ever totally decriminalize marijuana, Councilwoman Nancy Navarro said the council will be keeping a close eye on Colorado and Washington.

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