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Delegate pushes to decriminalize pot immediately

ANNAPOLIS — A member of Maryland’s Legislative Black Caucus is asking the House to fully decriminalize marijuana this year instead of just commissioning a study on the prospect.

Del. Keiffer Mitchell Jr., a Baltimore Democrat, submitted an amendment Friday that would restore the decriminalization bill recently passed by the Senate.

The House will consider the matter again Saturday. Mitchell says he’s close to getting the votes he needs.

The Senate’s bill would eliminate criminal charges for possessing small amounts of marijuana. It would institute a maximum fine of $100 instead. A House committee watered the bill down by assigning a task force to study decriminalization policies until 2015.

Mitchell says it’s an urgent matter because black residents are being arrested for marijuana possession disproportionately to white people who use the drug.