Governor Larry Hogan Vetoes Bill That Would Decriminalize Marijuana Paraphernalia

The criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Douglas T. Sachse provide a Maryland law update regarding the possession of marijuana paraphernalia.

In October 2014, Maryland passed a law that decriminalized the possession of marijuana, which means that people age 21 and over that are charged with possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana will face civil violations with penalties comparable to a traffic offense instead of a criminal offense.

While many Maryland citizens rejoiced at the confirmation of this new law, they were quickly reminded that retaining possession of drug paraphernalia, including pipes, grinders and other related accessories, remained a criminal offense. Then, in April 2015, lawmakers in Maryland approved Senate Bill 517, which would eliminate matters involving the use or possession of marijuana from the definition of drug paraphernalia in the state’s criminal code, thus decriminalizing it.

In addition to decriminalizing marijuana paraphernalia, the new law would also reduce the maximum penalty for smoking marijuana in public from a $1000 fine to a $500 fine, making it a civil offense instead of criminal.

This law was set to take effect on October 15, 2015, but in a surprising twist of events, Governor Larry Hogan vetoed the bill. As a result, the law that decriminalizes the use of marijuana paraphernalia will not be instated.

When asked for reasoning behind his decision to veto the bill, Gov. Hogan explained how the installment of this new law would generate legal uncertainties including the elimination of criminal sanctions for the use of marijuana while operating a motor vehicle. Based on these uncertainties, the Maryland State’s Attorneys’ Association, the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association and the Maryland Sheriffs’ Association also requested that the bill be vetoed.

Marijuana reform activists disagree with Gov. Hogan’s decision to veto, saying his reason for opposition isn’t strong enough nor does it accurately describe the purpose of the bill in general. They are also requesting that the Maryland legislature override the veto.

Unfortunately for marijuana reform activists, the Maryland legislature has already adjourned for the year. Their hope of an override vote has to wait until the next time the legislature gathers, and in order for the veto to get overridden, 29 votes are necessary from the Senate and 85 votes are necessary from the House of Delegates. Until then, the use or possession of drug paraphernalia as it relates to marijuana is still a criminal offense even though the possession of marijuana itself has been decriminalized.

For more information about marijuana and drug paraphernalia laws in Maryland or how they affect your individual circumstances, contact the criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Douglas T. Sachse.

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