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Maryland House panel rejects bill easing marijuana penalties

A fully budded marijuana plant ready for trimming is seen at the Botanacare marijuana store ahead of their grand opening on New Year's day i
A fully budded marijuana plant ready for trimming is seen at the Botanacare marijuana store ahead of their grand opening on New Year's day i

(Reuters) - A bill to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in Maryland was effectively struck down by a committee in the state House of Delegates, a staff member said on Thursday.

The House Judiciary Committee voted instead on Wednesday to form a task force to investigate decriminalization over the next two years, said Ryan Lhotsky, the chief of staff for state Senator Bobby Zirkin, who sponsored the bill.

"Hopefully it's not officially dead, but it's not the result we were looking for," said Lhotsky. He said there was a slim chance the legislation could be revived.

The Democrat-controlled Senate passed the bill last month. It would have made possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana a civil and not criminal offense and reduced the penalty to a $100 civil fine.

Twenty states, along with the District of Columbia, allow marijuana use as treatment for various health ailments. Washington and Colorado permit cannabis for recreational use.

While marijuana is illegal under federal law, 15 states, the District of Columbia and a handful of cities have removed the threat of arrest for possession of small amounts of it.

(Reporting by Lacey Johnson; Editing by Scott Malone)

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