Written by Greg Gaffney-Bills of George Washington University SSDP
The Washington Post’s article, “Bit of pot won’t land you in Maryland jail,” illustrated the beginning of Maryland’s journey towards sensible drug policy on October 1st. By decriminalizing marijuana, Maryland citizens and lawmakers are proving a level of commitment to the idea that drug use is a public health issue, not a criminal issue.
However, the work is far from over. While full legalization could provide the state with hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue, decriminalization in Maryland included a unique clause. If minors are caught with less than 10 grams of marijuana (the amount decriminalized), they must participate in a drug education class in addition to paying a fine.
If this program contains real drug education, not the “just say no” mantra of the failed US War on Drugs, Maryland could see reduced adolescent drug use. In Portugal, decriminalization coupled with proper youth drug education produced a 50% decline in overall drug use. Yet again, the evidence disproves the arguments of those who oppose drug policy reform in the United States.
Maryland showed great leadership with this decision, and hopefully Washington, DC continues the positive momentum in our region by voting yes on Initiative 71 in November.