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Marijuana Legislation: Senate Bill 364

On April 14, 2014, Governor Martin O’Malley signed Senate Bill 364, which makes possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana a civil offense punishable by fines.  Under the new law, possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana is not a crime for any purpose in Maryland, and is not included in Maryland’s case search database, meaning the citation will not be viewable by members of the public.  However, there are a few things that you should know about the passage of this law: 

  1. The new law does not take effect until October 1, 2014. 
  2. Passage of the law does not mean that marijuana is now “legal.”  Under the new law, Possession of under 10 grams of marijuana is now a civil offense rather than a criminal offense, but you can still be stopped, searched, and fined if the police believe you possess marijuana.  Possession of more than 10 grams of marijuana is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail or $1,000.
  3. The law sets fines for possession of marijuana depending on how many times a person has violated the statute:
    • 1st offense: $100
    • 2nd offense: $250
    • 3rd or subsequent: $500
  4. Although a first and second citation are payable without appearing in court, a third or subsequent citation requires you to appear in court.  A person under 21 who violates the statute must appear in court for a first offense.  If you fail to appear in court when required, the judge may issue a warrant for your arrest.  Additionally, failure to appear at court in response to a citation is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/ or a fine of up to $500.
  5. Upon a third offense (or first offense if defendant is less than 21 years of age), the court SHALL order drug education, drug evaluation, and drug treatment if necessary. 
  6. Passage of the law does not mean that you can drive your vehicle after using marijuana.  Driving while under the influence of marijuana is just as serious an offense as driving while under the influence of alcohol. 
  7. The State can still bring forfeiture proceedings to seize vehicles used to transport marijuana.  This means that if you are found to be in possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana while in your car, you may only receive a fine, and no criminal penalties, but the State can file proceedings to seize your car.
  8. Although the law makes possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana a civil offense, the law does not change the standard for distribution of marijuana, which is felony punishable by up to 5 years incarceration and/ or a fine of up to $15,000.  For example, if you possess a marijuana cigarette weighing less than 10 grams, and a police officer witnesses you pass that cigarette to a friend, you may be subject to a felony conviction rather than a civil offense.
  9. Similarly, the law does not change the standard for possession of drug paraphernalia.  While possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana by itself is punishable only by a fine, and is not a criminal act, possession of, for example, a pipe used to smoke the marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by either a fine, for a first offense, or up to two years incarceration and/ or a fine of up to $2,000 for a second or subsequent offense. 

An attorney can help you to understand your rights and present a defense.  If you have been charged with possession of marijuana, or another criminal offense, contact Mudd, Mudd & Fitzgerald, P.A.

 

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