Maryland officially becomes the 21st Medical Marijuana state (plus neighboring Washington D.C.) after Governor Martin O’Malley signed off on House Bill 881 which both allows limited medical marijuana access for patients and protects them from prosecution. While that medical access (like the whole East Coast’s) will take time, patience, and start off as prohibitive, Maryland’s decriminalization bill–SB 364–will have a great impact immediately.
The crime-riddled Maryland–Baltimore in particular–will fortunately see its police migrates towards preventing real crimes, while low-level marijuana offenders will face small fines ($100-$500 escalating) and no longer face harsh sentences (and racism). Like the other 17 states with decriminalization bills in place, this type of act is only a small one of progress, and does not not end prohibition.
People in Maryland can still go to jail for weed, and it’s most definitely not legal. That said, the previously anti–weed Governor O’Malley appears to be waking up to smell the Kush:
The marijuana decriminalization bill will make it easier for law enforcement to focus on higher priority crimes & drive down violence in MD
— Martin O’Malley (@GovernorOMalley) April 14, 2014
Yes, but again, that medical marijuana bill is a very restrictive one that won’t boost Maryland’s economy or eradicate its black market. In Maryland, patients remain without safe access (at least for the time being) and still must resort to illegal methods to get said weed.
Fortunately, the Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland still has its foot to the gas pedal:
“This measure will prevent tens of thousands of Marylanders from facing life-altering criminal penalties simply for possessing a less harmful substance than alcohol. But there is still more work to be done. Although it is a step in the right direction, this legislation will not do anything to eliminate the problems associated with relegating the sales of marijuana to the underground market,” the statement read.
“We expect this issue will be taken up again next spring, and we are hopeful legislators will be ready to explore more comprehensive reform. Until marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol, sales will remain uncontrolled and revenues will benefit criminal enterprises instead of legitimate, taxpaying businesses.” [WUSA9]
The good news: Maryland will soon have medical. The bad news: that medical won’t be available to most, and its decriminalization bill won’t take marijuana off the streets and into dispensaries.