Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced late Friday afternoon that he has vetoed a widely supported bill to remove criminal penalties for possession of marijuana paraphernalia, including potential jail time. The measure would also designate public marijuana consumption a civil offense punishable by a $500 fine.
SB 517, introduced by Sen. Bobby Zirkin (D-Baltimore County), was approved 32-13 in the Senate and 83-53 in the House of Delegates. Maryland adopted a law last year that decriminalized possession of a small amount of marijuana, but it did not include marijuana paraphernalia.
Gov. Hogan’s letter to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller announcing the veto and explaining his reasoning is available at http://bit.ly/1ellF1e.
Statement from the Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland, which supported SB 517:
“Gov. Hogan’s decision to veto this widely supported, common-sense legislation is baffling. An overwhelming majority of Maryland voters do not want citizens to be subjected to jail time and a lifelong criminal record simply for using marijuana. Their elected officials have stood up for them on this issue twice, and we hope they will do so again by overriding the governor’s veto.
“Gov. Hogan’s excuse for opposing this legislation does not hold water. Under the proposed law, it would remain entirely illegal to consume marijuana while driving and police would maintain the ability to stop anyone who they believed to be engaging in such an activity. Ironically, if Gov. Hogan’s veto holds, law enforcement officials will continue to spend time arresting and prosecuting people for marijuana paraphernalia possession instead of spending it on looking for impaired and otherwise dangerous drivers. If the governor’s aim was to keep our roads safe, his veto of SB 517 was an epic misfire.”
The Marijuana Policy Coalition of Maryland includes the ACLU of Maryland, CASA de Maryland, Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, Demand Progress, Equality Maryland, Job Opportunities Task Force, International Women’s Cannabis Coalition-Maryland Chapter, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, League of Women Voters of Maryland, Libertarian Party of Maryland, Maryland Green Party, Marijuana Policy Project, Maryland Justice Project, Maryland NORML, Maryland United for Peace and Justice, Medical Cannabis Advocates of Maryland, Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches, Maryland State Conference, Montgomery County Civil Rights Coalition, Montgomery County Young Democrats, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Union Local 400, and Veterans for Peace, Phil Berrigan Memorial Chapter.