Gov. Martin O’Malley pledged to sign the marijuana decriminalization bill

After some heated last minute maneuvers in the House of Delegates over the weekend the state of Maryland is set to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

On Monday, Gov. Martin O’Malley pledged to sign the marijuana decriminalization bill recently approved by the Senate. The quick statement of support was a surprise given that O’Malley has not been the best on the marijuana reform issues in the past. It is another reminder of how the political calculations around the issue are clearly shifting. From his statement:

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 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.”

The bill (SB 364) decriminalizes up to 10 grams of marijuana for adults 21 and over. A first offense will result in only a $100 citation. A second offense will result in just a $250 fine, but a third offense would require an appearance in court and possibly drug treatment.

Jon Walker is the author of After Legalization: Understanding the future of marijuana policy