Having a small amount of pot in Md. is no longer a criminal case – Washington Post

By Jenna Johnson,

Getting caught with a small plastic bag of marijuana in Maryland used to carry the risk of both criminal charges and jail time. But once the clock struck midnight, Maryland’s decriminalization law took effect, replacing criminal charges, in most cases, with a civil citation and a fine — similar to getting a parking ticket.

The law is one of hundreds that, as of the first day of October, are on the books in Maryland, the District and Virginia.

D.C. residents now have a 5.75 percent sales tax on gym memberships, yoga classes, car washes and deliveries of bottled water, among other services. At the same time, the city will give its employees up to eight weeks of paid leave after the birth or adoption of a child or when an employee must look after a family member with a serious health condition.

Virginia’s new laws include one addressing the social history of minors who are being considered for placement in a juvenile correctional facility. And the minimum wage in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties has increased to $8.40 per hour, part of a regional effort to gradually grow baseline pay so it reaches $11.50 by 2017.

Preparation for pot decriminalization in Maryland — a change that recently happened in the District — hasn’t been simple.

Prosecutors and police had to make several decisions: How will officers determine the weight of the marijuana they discover? What happens if they arrest someone for having more than 10 grams only to discover at the station that it was less? And given that it is still a criminal offense to carry drug paraphernalia — including bongs, pipes and rolling papers — should officers use that charge against suspected drug offenders instead?

The Governor’s Office of Crime Control and Prevention, with help …read more