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No sooner do I leave Maryland than marijuana gets decriminalized there

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Marijuana in Maryland will be decriminalized in October 2014, for simple possession of less than ten grams, generally making a civil fine the worst penalty, with drug education required for repeat offenses.

What a dizzying whirlwind this has been, and I cannot take credit for any of it, beyond my advocating marijuana legalization on my website. First, Maryland’s senate this year passed marijuana decriminalization. Next, the bill got shelved in the House of Delegates, just like last year. Then, someone unglued the shelf, and the House passed the bill this past Saturday.

I had read that Maryland Governor O’Malley was lukewarm on marijuana decriminalization, and I was about to try to convince Maryland voters to get him on boar. However, Governor O’Malley beat me to the punch, yesterday saying he is on board with signing marijuana decriminalization into law. Absent any fast tracking, decriminalization should take effect in October 2014.

For me, marijuana legalization is about protecting civil liberties. My last toke is a hazy memory from before law school, and will remain my last toke even if marijuana becomes legal in every corner of the earth.

Here are some items to consider with this spectacular Maryland marijuana decriminalization development, based on the latest version of the bill that I found on the Maryland legislature’s website:

– Passing marijuana to anyone is still a felony in Maryland. Will this lead smokers in Maryland to start using their own stash, rather than following the time honored practice of passing the communal joint or pipe? I take it that the law change will not decrease shotgunning frequency.

– This change in Maryland law does not touch drug paraphernalia law, nor federal law nor federal property.

– Transporting marijuana over state lines remains a federal offense.

– Maryland marijuana decriminalization should make U.S. Congress members more willing to allow neighboring District of Columbia’s (formerly part of Maryland) signed marijuana decriminalization bill become law.

– Let marijuana decriminalization and legalization (and decriminalization of all other drugs) go the domino direction of gay marriage, becoming permitted in state after state.

– I will not be surprised if real estate values increase in Maryland with people wanting to take advantage of marijuana decriminalization, for medicinal and relaxation purposes.

– If you are a lawyer or member of another licensed profession, do not assume that decriminalization automatically saves you from hot water if your licensing authority learns you have toked.

Last July, I moved my office from Maryland to Virginia and my family moved to Virginia, as well.  Professionally, it was the right move, and Virginia is still near some of my favorite places for recreation and leisure time. Individual liberties-wise, Maryland is ahead of Virginia in such departments as death penalty abolition and, now, marijuana decriminalization.

Before Gorbachev, I never expected to see the fall of the Soviet Union. I was proven wrong. Now, I have been shown decriminalization passage in Maryland and Washington, D.C.; legalization in Colorado and Washington; and medical marijuana legalization in many more states. This is big!