Montgomery Council: Pot paraphernalia should be decriminalized

ROCKVILLE, Md (WUSA9) - Montgomery County councilmembers say Maryland's new law to decriminalize marijuana contains a serious error, and today the council voted unanimously for a resolution urging state legislators to fix it.

The law, which goes into effect in October, decriminalizes possession of small amounts of marijuana to a civil citation with a $50 fine for the first offense, but overlooks laws concerning the possession of the paraphernalia needed to smoke it.Paraphernalia possession remains a crime that can land a smoker in jail for up to a year.

According to a press release issued by the council: "The Council today unanimously approved a resolution calling on the Maryland General Assembly to decriminalize adult possession of marijuana paraphernalia by making it consistent with the new State law decriminalizing the drug itself."

"The resolution also declares the sense of the Council that possession of small amounts of marijuana and paraphernalia by adults should be among the County's lowest law enforcement priorities."

"The resolution was sponsored by Councilmember Nancy Navarro and co-sponsored by Councilmembers Roger Berliner, Cherri Branson, Marc Elrich, Nancy Floreen, Craig Rice and Hans Riemer. On June 17, State Senator Rich Madaleno and State Delegates Sheila Hixson, Bonnie Cullison and Al Carr joined Councilmembers and advocates at a press conference supporting the resolution. The State legislative leaders said they hoped the General Assembly would act quickly to decriminalize adult possession of paraphernalia."

"Councilmember Navarro said the resolution's intent reflects the findings of the ACLU's report The Maryland War on Marijuana in Black and White."

"According to the ACLU's report, African-American residents in Montgomery County are 3.2 times more likely to be arrested for simple marijuana possession than white residents, even though black and white residents have been shown by several surveys to use marijuana at comparable rates. In 2010, African-Americans made up 18 percent of Montgomery County's population, but 46 percent of those arrested for marijuana possession in Montgomery County were African-American."

"Last week, we celebrated the 50th anniversary of President Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act," said Councilmember Navarro. "We have come a long way since then, but we still have work to do. Our nation's failed war on drugs is disproportionately targeting people of color, contributing to income inequality and exacerbating the academic achievement gap. A criminal record can keep you from getting a job, housing or even a student loan. This is a social justice issue that our State and Federal leaders need to address."


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