Frederick County State Sen. David Brinkley voted 'yes.'
A bill to reduce the penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana passed the Maryland Senate on Tuesday by a 30-16 vote. The measure would let police issue a $100 citation to individuals in possession of ten grams or less of pot, which is the equivalent of about two joints. There would be no jail time.
"I voted for the legislation," says Frederick County State Senator David Brinkley. "It does still compel confiscation and a ticket. And the ticket that's issued is a must appear. The person has to show up in court."
Brinkley also says it would be a better use of a law enforcement officer's time. "For particularly small quantities of this type, I'd rather have our people--meaning law enforcement officers--on the street, issue a ticket, have the person show up so they can answer for breaking the law, and have the law enforcement officer back on the street. And I don't want to see the courts tied up in some of this," he says.
Opponents of this legislation say it could mean more young people using drugs. But Brinkley doesn't think that will happen. "Currently, it's illegal for them to purchase cigarettes; it's currently illegal for them to consume alcohol; it's currently illegal to do a lot of things. I don't think this it all softens that approach. It's a ticketable offense. It says you still have to answer for it," he says.
Many proponents of decriminalizing marijuana say the current system of prosecuting and jailing even those in possession of small amounts of pot isn't working, and something else needs to be done. Brinkley agrees. "Whatever we've been doing for the past many decades is failing," he says. "Something outside of that has to take place, and this is just an attempt."
Senator Brinkley, a cancer survivor, is a supporter of allowing citizens access to marijuana for medical uses, such as relieving pain.
The State's Attorneys' Association of Maryland has gone on record against bills such as these, claiming they only legalize marijuana. Frederick County State's Attorney Charlie Smith calls pot a "social evil."