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Ambiguities Abound With Maryland Marijuana Law

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Possession of small amounts of marijuana may soon be decriminalized in Maryland, but not the paraphenalia used to consume it.
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Possession of small amounts of marijuana may soon be decriminalized in Maryland, but not the paraphenalia used to consume it.

A new Maryland law that will decriminalize marijuana in October involves some ambiguities that police and prosecutors are just beginning to confront.

Under the law, possession of rolling papers, pipes and other marijuana accessories will remain a criminal offense, meaning a person could still be arrested for it.

Also, fines are supposed to go up for anyone caught with the drug more than once, but Scott Shellenberger, the state's attorney for Baltimore County, says it will be hard for police to establish whether a person has been charged before. Prior non-criminal offenses will not show up in the criminal database.

The Maryland State's Attorneys Association had urged Gov. Martin O'Malley to veto the bill because the bill did not maintain criminal penalties for possessing marijuana on school property.

O'Malley, who signed the bill into law Monday, says he hopes the law will improve public safety by freeing police officers to focus on more serious threats.

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