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Sen. Robert A. "Bobby" Zirkin, D-Baltimore County and chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. (File photo)
Sen. Robert A. "Bobby" Zirkin, D-Baltimore County and chairman of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. (File photo)

Zirkin accuses Hogan of lying about paraphernalia bill

The sponsor of a bill decriminalizing drug paraphernalia is accusing Gov. Larry Hogan of lying about the bill in order to thwart a veto override vote scheduled for Thursday.

Sen. Robert A. “Bobby” Zirkin made the comments and challenged Hogan to a debate on the issue after reading a post on Hogan’s Change Maryland Facebook page.

“Out-of-touch legislators in Annapolis want to override Gov. Hogan’s common-sense veto of the toking while driving bill, making it legal to drive

Photo illustration by Maximilian Franz

Photo illustration by Maximilian Franz

a vehicle while high on marijuana!” Hogan’s post reads.

Change Maryland is a grassroots organization started by Hogan that later morphed into his gubernatorial campaign.

“That statement is a complete and utter lie,” Zirkin said. “I’m not going to mince my words. It’s not an exaggeration. It’s not a misinterpretation. It’s a lie. Quite frankly, I call on (Hogan) to apologize to the citizens of Maryland. He owes the citizens of Maryland an apology for lying about the law. That’s typical politician stuff.”

The bill makes the possession of drug paraphernalia such as bongs and rolling paper a civil offense punishable by a $500 fine rather than a criminal offense. Supporters say the policy is consistent with state law that decriminalized small amounts of marijuana.

Zirkin said the bill in no way makes it legal to smoke in public or in a car.

“If the governor wants to come down and debate me, I’ll put a chair next to my desk on the floor (of the Senate),” Zirkin said. “If the governor needs legislation making it clear in bold print, in all capital letters and in yellow highlighter with cute little emojis so he can understand the law then I’m happy to do that.”

“With Senate Bill 517, the General Assembly attempts to correct the unintended consequences from last year’s law but in doing so creates legal uncertainties including the elimination of criminal sanctions for the use of marijuana while operating a motor vehicle or in a public setting,” Hogan wrote in his veto letter.

“If Senate Bill 517 became law, State and local law enforcement would be left with no authority to make a traffic stop if they see someone smoking marijuana while driving. Based upon this uncertainty, the Maryland State’s Attorneys’ Association, the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association, and the Maryland Sheriffs’ Association have requested a veto of Senate Bill 517.”

Douglass Mayer, a Hogan spokesman, said the governor stands by his veto letter and social media postings and called the bill “fundementally flawed.”

“The governor made his intent very clear that he is willing to work with the General Assembly to legislatively fix those flaws,” Mayer said.”Certain legislators seem far more interested in the politics of a veto override instead of actually fixing the problem.”

“If the senator wants to accuse states attorneys, chiefs of police, and sheriffs from around the state of lying he’s free to do so but the governor happens to believe the people on the ground are far better at understanding what law enforcement looks like.”

“And if the good senator is so interested in debating the governor then he should run for governor,” Mayer said. “Good luck with that.”

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