Avoid jail for smoking marijuana? It’s possible

According to some lawmakers – and Maryland criminal defense attorneys would agree – jail time just isn’t good policy for those who are arrested for certain misdemeanors, including the drug offense of smoking marijuana.

But the proposed legislation making its way through lawmakers’ hands is a “moving target,” as Aaron C. Davis and Dan Morse report for the Washington Post, given how often it has been added to and revised.

The problem in getting this legislation to a vote (as one prosecutor said, “It didn’t have to be this complicated”) comes from strong opposition on both sides of the table.

Davis and Morse report that the Maryland high court ruled that people arrested and brought before a commissioner in booking should have legal representation before going to jail, which prompted the legislature to look into not sending people to booking and jail in the first place.

In turn, lawmakers have looked into what sort of crimes would merit a citation (with the demand to show up for a court date) rather than an arrest and jail time.

Among the misdemeanor crimes is smoking marijuana.

On one hand, people worry that law enforcement won’t have sufficient discretion to figure out the identity of a suspect and decide whether or not jail is the right call. There are those who believe that Marylanders will “get away” with serious crimes.

On the other, there are a lot of people who are arrested, and not everyone should find themselves behind bars, especially if the goal is to “reduce the stress on the system,” as one lawmaker said.

Source: Proposed Maryland legislation could be the ticket out of jail