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Maryland Senate Debates Decriminalizing Marijuana

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The Maryland Senate is inching toward a vote on a bill that would decriminalize marijuana possession in the state.

Debate had just begun on the Senate floor on Tuesday when proposed amendments to the bill stopped it for a day so lawmakers could study them. The measure would make possessing ten grams or less of marijuana no longer punishable by prison time, but rather just a small fine.

Republican Christopher Shank of western Maryland offered the two amendments that caused the delay. One would take the money raised by the fines and set it aside for drug treatment programs. The other would make anyone who's caught and fined three times appear before a judge be required to get treatment.

"If there is a third violation, it clearly indicates there might be something going on that would require some treatment. So it would authorize a judge to order treatment," he said.

Shank said that the amendment is modeled after a similar law in the state of New York.

Senators will take up both proposals as well as a host of others when they reconvene this morning.

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