Cannabizness: Maryland bill would make pot subject to vehicular open-container law

By Van Smith

Baltimore, Jan. 30, 2019

That cannabis and cars don’t mix well is a foregone conclusion, but how best to penalize those caught using pot in vehicles is open for debate. In Maryland, one possible scenario – adding pot use to the state’s ¬†existing law governing open booze containers in a motor vehicle’s passenger area – is back in play during the General Assembly’s 2019 session, having last year languished in the House Judiciary Committee and, in 2017, having passed the House and died in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee.

The lead sponsor this year, as it was last session, is Prince George’s County state Del. Geraldine Valentino-Smith (D-District 23A), and signing on as co-sponsors are Baltimore City state Del. Curt Anderson (D-43rd District), Howard County state Del. Vanessa Atterbeary (D-13th District), and Calvert and Prince George’s’ counties state Del. Michael Jackson (D-District 27B). House Bill 350 (HB 350), “Vehicle Laws – Smoking Marijuana in Vehicles – Prohibition,” currently awaits being scheduled for a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, where no further action was taken last year after a hearing was held.

If HB 350 passes into law, someone who is caught using cannibis in the passenger area of a vehicle that is on a highway, whether it is moving or not, can be found guilty of a misdemeanor crime and be subject to a fine of up to $500, according to the fiscal note prepared for last year’s bill by the Department of Legislative Services. However, if that person chooses not to appear in court for a hearing over the violation, he or she can prepay a $530 fine. Either way, a point is added to a violator’s driving record, or three points if the violation is tied to an accident.

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