Maryland Senate Passes Marijuana Decriminalization

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Maryland's Senate voted on Tuesday to decriminalize possession of a small amount of marijuana, according to the Baltimore Sun.

The Senate also voted on Wednesday in favor of a bill that would ban smoking in cars with young children, the Washington Post reports.

Here's the latest on the smoking legislation passed in the Maryland Senate this week.

* The vote on marijuana possession passed by a 30 to 16 vote and will move on to the House.

* According to the bill, any individual caught with 10 grams or less of marijuana would eliminate the current 90-day jail term associated with possession, but would retain a smaller maximum $100 fine. The current fine is a maximum of $500.

* Baltimore County Democrat Sen. Robert A. Zirkin, the bill's sponsor, said the current jail term is a "a tremendous waste of resources," and noted that the approved measure falls short of Colorado and Washington's full legalization vote from last November, the Baltimore Sun reported.

* Maryland will consider a small amount of marijuana to be a civil infraction, if passed by the House and signed by Gov. Martin O'Malley.

* Passage is not guaranteed in the House of Delegates. As Zirkin noted in the Houston Chronicle, "we have a challenge over on the other side from what I understand," acknowledging the stronger opposition.

* The Maryland House Judiciary Committee was scheduled to hold a hearing on separate legislation that would legalize small amounts of marijuana for adults 21 years and older while creating a system allowing the regulation and taxation of the narcotic, the Houston Chronicle reported.

* The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the Senate voted more narrowly in favor of the cigarette smoking ban, voting 27 to 20 on passage.

* The ban will apply to smoking in vehicles in which children younger than 8 years old are passengers.

* Violators will pay a penalty of $50.

* Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin, a Republican representing Cecil County, voiced his opposition, saying that the bill was one more step towards making Maryland a "nanny state", according to the Washington Post.

* In agreement were Zirkin and fellow Democrat and Baltimore County Senator Katherine Klausmeier. But while both agreed that the health effects of second-hand smoke were detrimental, Klausmeier said she would vote against the measure because she felt it would be ineffective.

Shawn Humphrey is a former contributor to The Flint Journal and lives near Washington D.C. in Germantown, Maryland.

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