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This State Made Consuming Cannabis In Public A Crime - Again

Maryland's blunder has turned comedian Bill Maher into a prophet. Last February, the host of "Real Time" called on marijuana activists to keep pushing for reform because the gains made across the country could easily be undone. Well, that's what happened this week in Maryland. On Mar. 21, the state's House of Delegates passed a bill that would partially re-criminalize marijuana if signed into law.

In 2014, then-Governor Martin O'Malley made news by signing a decriminalization bill that made possession and public consumption a civil offense instead of a criminal offense. So offenders would have to pay a fine instead of facing jail time and getting a criminal record.

Now the legislature is trying to make public consumption of marijuana a misdemeanor offense carrying a fine of up to $500.

Public consumption is a hot button issue across America right now, because some people - including veterans using medical marijuana - aren't allowed to smoke or vape cannabis in public housing. Others simply want to go outside so that they don't have to smoke around their kids.

The move is the latest perplexing development in Maryland's ongoing struggles with marijuana reform. The decriminalization bill O'Malley signed in 2014 didn't include lifting the criminal ban on paraphernalia. That meant people caught with a joint faced a fine for the marijuana itself, plus a misdemeanor charge for the rolled paper.

In 2015, the House fixed that gap in the law by passing a bill to decriminalize paraphernalia. But Governor Larry Hogan vetoed it. The debacle ended in January 2016 when the General Assembly voted to overturn the veto, forcing the paraphernalia bill into law.

Now the legislature seems to be backpedaling on the reforms that it fought to achieve. And while it's uncertain whether this is the beginning of more bills to roll back marijuana reform in Maryland, there's little doubt that Hogan will sign re-criminalization into law.

h/t City Lab, Baltimore Sun, Washington Times


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