Maryland Bill To Decriminalize Drugs

Maryland House Bill 1119, sponsored by Delegate Dan Morhaim, aims to downgrade “violations relating to the use or possession of specified de minimis quantities of specified controlled dangerous substances” from misdemeanors to civil offenses; effectively decriminalizing drugs.

However, the bill also aims to penalize anyone for using or possessing less than 10 grams of marijuana or anyone possessing a “de minimis quantity of specified controlled dangerous substances”. It also explains the “procedural provisions” for issuing citations to anyone using or possessing less than 10 grams of marijuana or possessing a “de minimis quantity of specified controlled dangerous substances”.

The bill defines the “de minimis quantity of specified controlled dangerous substances” as less than:

  • 10 grams of marijuana
  • 2 grams of cocaine
  • 1 gram of heroin
  • 10 tablets of 3, 4–Methylenedioxymethamphetamine 4 (MDMA)
  • 0015 grams of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD)
  • 1 gram of Methadone
  • 1 gram of Amphetamine

According to the bill, anyone who uses or possesses marijuana can not be imprisoned for more than a year or fined more than $1000 or both. If it’s your first time using or possessing a “de minimis quantity of specified controlled dangerous substances”, you can not be fined more than $100. If it’s your second time, you can not be fined more than $250. On your third violation, you can not be fined more than $500.

There are some conditions to these fines though.

“In addition to a fine, a court shall order a person under the age of 21 years who commits a violation punishable under subsubparagraph 1, 2, or 3 of this subparagraph to attend a drug education program approved by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, refer the person to an assessment for substance abuse disorder, and refer the person to substance abuse treatment, if necessary.”

“In addition to a fine, a court shall order a person at least 21 years old who commits a violation punishable under subsubparagraph 3 of this subparagraph to attend a drug education program approved by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, refer the person to an assessment for substance abuse disorder, and refer the person to substance abuse treatment, if necessary.”

If you smoke marijuana in a public place, you can not be fined more than $500.

If a police officer cites you for using or possessing a “de minimis quantity of specified controlled dangerous substances”, the citation must include:

  • the name and address of the person charged
  • the date and time that the violation occurred
  • the fine that may be imposed
  • a notice stating that prepayment of the fine is allowed, except as provided in paragraph (2) of [subsection D]
  • a notice in boldface type that states the person shall
  1. pay the full amount of the preset fine; or
  2. request a trial date at the date, time, and place established by the District Court by writ or trial notice

If a person under 21 is cited, the court will summon that person for trial. If a person who is at least 21 has committed multiple violations, they will be summoned for trial also. However if the person is under 18, that person will be subject to Title 3, Subtitle 8A of the Courts Article.

Regarding citations, the bill states that “official record of a court regarding the citation are not subject to public inspection and may not be included on the public Web site maintained by the Maryland Judiciary.”

The bill aims to take effect October 1, 2016.

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