A variety of new Maryland laws are set to go into effect on Monday, October 1st. Many of these new Maryland laws are part to the criminal justice system, most notably the Maryland marijuana possession law. After years of lobbying by marijuana legalization groups, the Maryland state legislature finally voted to change the state’s harsh marijuana possession laws. Starting on Monday, the maximum penalty for simple possession of marijuana will be lowered from 1 year in jail to 90 days in jail, and the maximum fine will be lowered from $1,000 to $500. Simple possession of marijuana is possession of less than 10 grams of the controlled substance. Pressure from pro marijuana lobbyist groups was not the only reason that the legislature and governor agreed with the new marijuana penalties. The legislature was also swayed by proponents of a more streamlined judicial system.
Possession of marijuana cases have been clogging the district court dockets in Maryland for years, especially in densely populated jurisdictions such as Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and Prince George’s County. But in the past, many of these simple marijuana possession cases would also end up clogging the circuit court dockets as well. By lowering the maximum penalty for possession of marijuana to 90 days, a defendant is no longer allowed to demand a trial by jury in the circuit court, and starting October 1st possession of marijuana cases will for the most part begin and end in district court. Under the Maryland rules of criminal procedure a defendant may only demand a jury trial if he or she is facing more than 90 days incarceration. The new marijuana possession laws may seem like a victory for marijuana legalization supporters, but losing the right to a jury trial could prove to be a significant detriment to a possession of marijuana defendant who decides to fight his or her charges. Demanding a jury trial in a possession of marijuana case was not only a means to guarantee due process, but also a significant bargaining chip that a defense lawyer could use to earn a better negotiated offer from the state prosecuting lawyer.
Other law changes that have gained less notoriety than the marijuana possession law include a firearm law that will make it more difficult for a certain residents to possess firearms in Maryland. The law prohibits a person who has a federal criminal conviction or an out of state criminal conviction from possessing a regulated firearm, shotgun, or rifle if that criminal conviction was for a disqualifying violent crime or a drug crime. This law new law has been met with resistance from firearm possession advocacy groups such as the NRA, and will continue to generate opposition. Especially in light of the recent 2nd Amendment Maryland Court of Appeals decision that is set to be argued in the United States Supreme Court.
The Maryland state legislature also approved a bill that will protect prisoners from having to pay child support while they are incarcerated, and repeals a law modifying the child safety seat exception for children who weigh more than 65 pounds. Finally, fantasy football and other fantasy games will officially be exempt from Maryland’s archaic prohibition against gambling and wagering.
Benjamin Herbst is a Maryland marijuana lawyer specializing in drug possession and drug manufacturing cases. Call The Herbst Firm anytime at 410-207-2598 for a free consultation about your Maryland drug charge.