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Maryland House passes bill to strengthen marijuana penalties

On Monday, the Maryland House passed a bill for fines up to $500 for smoking marijuana in public.

Sponsored by Washington Republican, Delegate Brett Wilson, the bill would roll back the decriminalization of marijuana last year and make it a misdemeanor to consume marijuana in a public place.

Delegate Marc Korman, Montgomery Democrat, said that smoking marijuana in public is already illegal under the decriminalization law, and the bill is harsh punishment.

Prince George’s Democrat, Delegate Joseline Pena-Melnyk, argued that such a law would disproportionate effect on black people and the criminal records it would create would prevent any young blacks from getting higher education and jobs.

However, Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary, Howard Democrat, claimed that she must avoid certain public spaces with her young children to prevent them from breathing in secondhand marijuana smoke.

She said in a passionate floor speech, “What are we saying if we don’t pass this?”.

The bill was approved 102 to 34, after a lengthy floor debate.

The bill was one of dozens of bills passed on “crossover” day, the deadline for each chamber to approve legislation and send it to the other chamber for consideration.