(March 27,2015) When marijuana was decriminalized last year, what has been called a legislative oversight occurred where possession of the paraphernalia used for smoking was a more serious offense than the substance itself.
House Bill 105 is a bid to normalize that portion of the law with the intent of marijuana decriminalization. The bill, which passed the house 90-48 on March 18, would limit the fines for paraphernalia involved to a $100 civil offense if used in conjunction with fewer than 10 grams of marijuana.
Courts would be obligated to consider medical necessity as a mitigating factor in paraphernalia cases, according to the analysis of the bill performed by Kathleen Kennedy of the Office of Policy Analysis.
According to law enforcement officials, the paraphernalia charge was the only mechanism they had under existing law to prohibit marijuana smoking in public areas.
Delegate Mary Beth Carozza provided that mechanism by offering her first amendment to legislation as an elected official, an act she said first-term members are not generally encouraged to do.
Under her amendment, marijuana smoking in public areas would be prohibited unless “authorized by a governmental entity that has jurisdiction over that property.”
Simply put in Ocean City terms, people won’t be smoking pot on the Boardwalk unless and until the City Council specifically allows it.
The idea, Carozza said, is that she didn’t want pending marijuana legislation to be “more lenient” than what rules already exist concerning alcohol.
“My amendment is common sense and protects the public. If it’s a misdemeanor to drink alcohol in public, then it should be a misdemeanor to smoke pot in public. It should not be more lenient to smoke marijuana in public than it is to drink in certain public places,” Carozza said.
Carozza said before the vote was taken she intended to support the amended legislation and records show she voted in favor of the bill.
The bill is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate on April 1.
“We want our boardwalk, our parks, and our public spaces to be family friendly,” Carozza said.
If signed, the bill will become a law on October 1.