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Gateway Drug or Waste of Police Resources? Patch Readers Weigh in on Pot

Possession of a certain amount of pot could become punishable by a $100 fine.

Several bills to lessen criminal penalties for marijuana possession are pending in the Maryland legislature. File|Patch
Several bills to lessen criminal penalties for marijuana possession are pending in the Maryland legislature. File|Patch
Maryland legislators are divided over whether decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana is a step toward freeing police up for more important duties, or if it will spread use of the drug and more serious drugs.

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on Friday voted 8 to 3 in favor of a measure that would shift possession of fewer than 10 grams of marijuana from a criminal offense to a civil one punishable by a $100 fine.

Delegate Heather Mizeur, D-Montgomery, is also sponsoring a decriminalization bill, scheduled for a hearing next week, while Sen. Jamie Raskin, D-Montgomery, is pushing to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana. Raskin’s bill is awaiting a vote by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

Patch readers weighed in with their views on the topic. Here are excerpts from their comments.

Robert Neuman: "If you speak to law enforcement they are indifferent on the issue. The laws are on the books and the priorities of enforcement wax and wane. Marijuana is no more a gateway drug than alcohol or cigarettes in yet you can get them everywhere and the money from taxes and regulation go towards programs to treat addictions. The same is going to hold true for marijuana reform."

Bryan Harz: "I believe this is an intelligent first step. … Once it's decriminalized it is up to the users to show responsibility. Then legalization will occur without much debate."

Brook Hubbard: "It's quite possible DUIs will increase, as individuals will be more blatant about use of marijuana and foolish enough to risk the consequences while using it. Still, as long as people understand the laws and they are clear about driving restrictions, then any fault falls on people's stupidity... not the substance."

Pam Hamburg: "Prohibition was tried and it failed. Just like the war on drugs. Alcohol is nothing but a LEGAL drug. Can anyone say 'black market'? That's what is already happening with weed and has been for a gazillion years. Legalize it, control it (so people KNOW what they're getting), tax it, no one under 21 can buy it. Lots of tax revenue."
Colleen March 13, 2014 at 05:12 PM
the trouble with politics seems to be the radicals on any side, whoever shouts the loudest gets heard. Midline, be it republicans, democrats, independents, libertarians, greens, or any other party out there- i think we are all after the same thing- finding some common ground. extremists, not so much. @MD Continental above- my guess is that Esoteric Knowledge was referring to the Rastafarian religion, which does utilize marijuana for religious purposes (i believe, i do not 100% know). And there are Rastafarians in America... also, this statement is very concerning "If you can't get more than a minimum wage job, maybe you should find out why and fix it." That sounds like a privileged bias, if I've ever seen it. I have a Master's degree and have been looking for a job for 3 years to no avail. For many Americans, minimum wage jobs are the only option left in order to keep money coming into the household. To find a job in this market you have to know someone or your application goes nowhere. I could go on, but this comment is off topic from the article, so I leave it at that.
MD Continental March 14, 2014 at 12:27 AM
Colleen, I had never heard of Rastafarian, so I thank you for addressing my ignorance. Regards "privileged bias", it sounds like you believe I am wealthy or something and never had to work for much. To the contrary, I have worked most of my life. Delivering newspapers, selling things door to door, working in grocery stores (at minimum wage), and many jobs since then. I have had more than one period of unemployment, but was never able to get more than 13 weeks of unemployment compensation. At one point, my family was on food stamps as I could not get more than 20 hours of work at, you guessed it, minimum wage. Eventually, I got a better paying job and worked my way up. I also have a masters degree. For the last 12 years, to remain employed, I have had to totally change my career field. I was not happy to do so, but then again, I was able to keep a job and take care of my family. I help those who need help when I can. However, I have seen first hand how marijuana has caused serious problems with some of my siblings. As I said in an earlier post, I would support medical use of marijuana, but not the recreational use.
Roberto March 16, 2014 at 08:26 AM
I say legalize all drugs. Treat them like alcohol. You must be 21 to buy it and you can't use it when driving or out in public. No open packages either. Take it home and use it. Tax it like alcohol too. That being said.... I think all drugs and alcohol are poison and I teach my kids the same. You want to avoid trouble in life... Avoid using drugs and alcohol and avoid Hanging out with people who do. It's a slippery slope once you begin using and it can and will destroy your life and your loved ones as well. But people should be free to decide for themselves.
Chuck Burton March 16, 2014 at 11:31 AM
Just about EVERYTHING is harmful if used to excess. Some things, like fats and sugar, harm mostly the user. Other things, like pot, coke, and crack, lead the user to do harm to others - in a large degree because the professional politicians have bought the votes of those who worry about them, by making them illegal, therefor expensive to obtain. This leads to more real, often violent, crime. Yes, juveniles will obtain and use these things, even if they become legal for adults. They do so now, while they remain illegal for everyone. Juvies will always emulate their adult heroes and heroines. Education is the one hope of reducing drug usage, but educators mostly have given up.
Roberto March 16, 2014 at 01:35 PM
I just do my best to make sure my kids look at me as a hero and decide to not use drugs. Nobody needs recreational drugs to survive and you don't need them to have a good time either. Your right.... Education is the key.

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