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Maryland Public Defender continues fight for decriminalizing weed: 'We must end this war on drugs'

Maryland Public Defender continues fight for decriminalizing weed
Maryland Public Defender continues fight for decriminalizing weed 02:02

BALTIMORE - We're nearly three weeks into marijuana being legal in Maryland.

While many can now enjoy using the drug within reason, the Office of the Public Defender says there's still much more to do before the drug is completely decriminalized.

Natasha Dartigue, Maryland's Public Defender, is in on two new laws recently passed before the rollout of legal recreational use.

She is moving the state further away from the criminalization of marijuana.

"We must end this war on drugs," Dartigue said.

As of July 1, recreational marijuana is now legal in Maryland.

Dartigue said Tuesday night the marijuana laws are changing, an policing should follow.

"Decriminalization is the key to getting to a place where we are more just in the criminal legal space," Dartigue said.

Dartigue said that during the latest legislative session. a law preventing the legal separation of children from their parents passed based on the lawful use of cannabis without proof of harm to the child. 

Another law now in effect, the odor law, prevents the smell of marijuana from being used by police as probable cause to search a person or vehicle.

"I think it's a big win," Baltimore resident Chris Rosario said. "Me walking the streets not being able to be stopped at risk is a big win for me." 

In her presentation, Dartigue says despite equivalent rates of use, Black people are arrested for marijuana possession more than three times the rate of white people. 

According to Dartigue, drug law enforcement is also disproportionately aimed at low-income communities and people of color. 

But with these new laws now in effect, people in the community tell WJZ they think the laws of policing will be more proportionately weighed. 

"I think it helps before we had laws pulling someone over for suspecting marijuana and separating a mother and child for suspecting the use of  marijuana wasn't actually getting at the root issues people were trying to solve," said Sarah Salarano.

Dartigue said the next step her office will take is to try to decriminalize syringes used to administer substances that way they can create an environment where people can get the resources and help they need.

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