Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley will sign a bill decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana as expected, his office announced late Monday. The legislation, which would impose civil fines rather than criminal sanctions on anyone caught with less than half an ounce of the stuff, was approved by the state Senate in the final hours of its 90-day session.
The move comes after the governor faced considerable pressure, both locally and nationally, to reform state marijuana legislation.
It’s a telling moment for O’Malley, who’s been touring the country and talking up the possibility of a 2016 presidential run. It also signals a broader shift toward more liberal marijuana policies.
Long before he was elected governor, O’Malley became mayor of Baltimore running on a tough-on-crime platform. But in the past year, he has shifted away from that image, crafting one bill that established the state’s medical-marijuana program (albeit a flawed one) and another giving law enforcement discretion as to whether to arrest someone for marijuana possession or simply issue a citation.
In a statement released around 5 p.m. Monday, O’Malley acknowledged his evolution. His full remarks, which downplay the move — making the legislation sound like a mere formality — are below.
With more effective policing and more widely available drug treatment, together in Maryland, we have driven violent crime down to its lowest levels in 30 years. This progress has been hard-won and much remains to be done. Recent spikes in homicides and heroin overdose deaths underscore the life-saving urgency of the work before us.
The General Assembly has decided after much consideration — and with clear majorities in both Chambers — to send to my desk a bill that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, and I plan to sign it.
As a matter of judicial economy and prosecutorial discretion, few if any defendants go to prison for a first or even a second offense of marijuana possession in Maryland. Desuetude is often a precursor of reform.
As a young prosecutor, I once thought that decriminalizing the possession of marijuana might undermine the Public Will necessary to combat drug violence and improve public safety. I now think that decriminalizing possession of marijuana is an acknowledgement of the low priority that our courts, our prosecutors, our police, and the vast majority of citizens already attach to this transgression of public order and public health. Such an acknowledgment in law might even lead to a greater focus on far more serious threats to public safety and the lives of our citizens.
What We're Following See More »
"Senate Democrats on Thursday failed in their first attempt to save the state and local tax deduction, which helps many residents of California and other high-cost states reduce their federal income tax bills. The Republican-controlled Senate voted 52-47 to reject an amendment that would have prevented the Senate from considering any bill that repeals or limits the deduction as part of a planned tax overhaul."
"A shake-up is underway at the Democratic National Committee as several key longtime officials have lost their posts, exposing a still-raw rift in the party and igniting anger among those in its progressive wing who see retaliation for their opposition to DNC Chairman Tom Perez. The ousters come ahead of the DNC's first meeting, in Las Vegas, Nevada, since Perez took over as chairman with a pledge this year to unite a party that had become badly divided during the brutal Bernie Sanders-Hillary Clinton 2016 primary race."