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Senate decriminalizes pot, but House may be different matter

ANNAPOLIS — The Maryland Senate voted 30-16 on Tuesday to decriminalize the possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana, but the bill sponsor conceded the measure faces an uphill fight in the House of Delegates.

“We have a challenge over on the other side from what I understand,” said Sen. Robert A. “Bobby” Zirkin, D-Baltimore County.

The measure would change the current penalty of up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine for possessing less than 10 grams of marijuana to a $100 civil fine. The law was changed last year to reduce jail time for possession under 10 grams to 90 days instead of a year in jail.

Supporters say the measure will save the state money by relieving the strain such crimes put on the criminal justice system. Opponents worry that decriminalization could increase drug use among youth.

Separately, the Maryland House Judiciary Committee was scheduled to hold a hearing on a measure to legalize limited amounts of marijuana for adults 21 and older. It also would create a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol.