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Md. Lawmakers Override Veto Of Marijuana Paraphernalia Bill

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) -- The Maryland General Assembly overrode several of Gov. Larry Hogan's vetoes on Thursday, including his veto of a bill decriminalizing the possession of marijuana paraphernalia and another to ensure third-party travel websites pay all of the state's sales tax.

Both the Senate and the House, which are controlled by Democrats, also had the three-fifths majority needed to override the Republican governor's veto of a bill to create a $300 threshold before authorities can seize money in criminal procedures and a separate veto that blocked $2 million for an arts facility in Anne Arundel County.

The Senate postponed until Feb. 5 a vote to override a veto of a bill to allow felons to vote while on parole or probation. The House voted to override that measure on Wednesday with 85 votes, the minimum needed. The Senate passed the voting rights bill for felons last year with 29 votes, the minimum amount the chamber would need to override Hogan's veto. One of last year's supporters has retired.

Asked by Republican Sen. Stephen Hershey whether the delay was simply to wait for the former senator's replacement to be appointed, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Calvert, replied, "Yes." The Senate president's reply prompted laughter and applause from other senators in the chamber.

"Thank you for your honesty," Hershey said.

The measure to decriminalize both marijuana paraphernalia and smoking pot in public brought spirited debate in both chambers. Maryland decriminalized possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana in 2013. Supporters of the paraphernalia bill say it was designed simply to be consistent with that change. The measure makes smoking marijuana in public a civil offense, punishable by a fine of up to $500.

To make her point in support of the bill, Del. Anne Kaiser likened marijuana and pot paraphernalia with Maryland blue crabs and Old Bay seasoning.

"Imagine that they were both illegal, and suddenly we allowed people to eat Maryland blue crabs, but we still kept the Old Bay illegal. It would be inconceivable," Kaiser, D-Montgomery, said.

But Del. Herb McMillan said he thought it was wrong to make the law more lenient on smoking pot on the street than it is on drinking alcohol. McMillan said he didn't believe a Maryland resident drinking beer on the street, whom he dubbed Bubba, should be treated worse than Jeff Spicoli, the often-stoned surfer character in the film "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."

"If this veto override is not sustained, then you're going to have a situation where Bubba can go to jail, and Jeff Spicoli can take the piece of paper he was given by the police officer, make a doobie out of it and smoke it," said McMillan, R-Anne Arundel.

Supporters of the sales tax bill for travel websites contended it simply closed a loophole.

"Right now, the companies are not remitting that sales tax revenue to the state. They are pocketing part of it," said Richard Madaleno, a Montgomery County Democrat who sponsored the bill.

But Sen. Andrew Serafini said it's a complex bill, and he supported the governor's position of waiting until a court case on the matter is resolved. Serafini also said the measure amounts to a new tax.

"This will hurt tourism," said Serafini, R-Washington. "No doubt about it."

The legislation takes effect 30 days after the override votes.

(Copyright 2016 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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