Governor O'Malley today released the following statement in response to the final passage of Possession of Marijuana -- Civil Offense (SB 364), which will decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana:
"With more effective policing and more widely available drug treatment, together in Maryland, we have driven violent crime down to its lowest levels in 30 years. This progress has been hard-won and much remains to be done. Recent spikes in homicides and heroin overdose deaths underscore the life-saving urgency of the work before us.
"The General Assembly has decided after much consideration -- and with clear majorities in both Chambers -- to send to my desk a bill that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, and I plan to sign it.
"As a matter of judicial economy and prosecutorial discretion, few if any defendants go to prison for a first or even a second offense of marijuana possession in Maryland. Desuetude is often a precursor of reform.
"As a young prosecutor, I once thought that decriminalizing the possession of marijuana might undermine the Public Will necessary to combat drug violence and improve public safety. I now think that decriminalizing possession of marijuana is an acknowledgement of the low priority that our courts, our prosecutors, our police, and the vast majority of citizens already attach to this transgression of public order and public health. Such an acknowledgment in law might even lead to a greater focus on far more serious threats to public safety and the lives of our citizens."