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Marijuana Decriminalization Bill Passes Maryland Senate

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A number of bills on marijuana are circulating through Annapolis this legislative session.
Matthew Kenwrick: http://www.flickr.com/photos/58847482@N03/5396653671/
A number of bills on marijuana are circulating through Annapolis this legislative session.

The Maryland Senate voted 30-16 Tuesday to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, eliminating jail time for amounts less than 10 grams and reducing the fine from $500 to $100.

The bill now moves to the House of Delegates. The House is already looking at a measure to legalize medical marijuana, which garnered support from the administration of Governor Martin O'Malley.

Supporters say the measure would save the state money by relieving the strain such crimes put on the criminal justice system.

Opponents worry that decriminalization could increase drug use among youth.

It's unclear whether the House will have time to consider the measure in the three weeks remaining in this legislative session, as measures on gun control and the state gas tax are expected to take priority.

At the same time, a House committee this afternoon will hold the first hearing on a bill that would legalize marijuana in Maryland. That measure appears to have less support than the decriminalizing measure, and just like that bill, getting it through the upper chamber will be difficult because of the short amount of time left in the yearly session.

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