Politicians clash in Maryland over pot

WASHINGTON — As the Montgomery County Council moved to vote on a resolution making possession of marijuana paraphernalia a low priority for law enforcement, council member Nancy Navarro singled out Republican Representative Andy Harris of Maryland’s Eastern Shore for criticism.

Navarro called the congressman’s attempts at blocking the District of Columbia’s decriminalization “shameful.” Speaking from the dais at a council meeting in Rockville, Maryland, Navarro said of Harris’ efforts, “Not only is this a clear infringement on D.C.’s home rule, it is also preventing D.C. from taking similar steps as Maryland to have a more sensible drug policy.”

Navarro added the council’s action should send a signal that, “We do not support a Maryland congressman standing in the way of allowing our neighbors in Washington, D.C. to move forward with implementing the laws passed by their elected officials.”

Harris’ office was contacted for comment.

Police and prosecutors in Montgomery County agreed to make pursuing charges against people with pot paraphernalia a “low priority.” It’s part of the Montgomery County Council’s fix to a situation that’s cropped up since the state enacted a bill to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Under the current law, possession becomes a civil offense, but the possession of paraphernalia to ingest pot remains a criminal offense.

Montgomery County Assistant Chief of Police Russ Hamill explained the conflicting laws put police in an awkward situation and agreed that Maryland state lawmakers in Annapolis need to address legislation regarding paraphernalia. Hamill said police “won’t turn a blind eye” to possession of paraphernalia but that the offense was not a high priority.

Hamill said “our highest priority is to protect and serve the people of Montgomery County.”

At the same time, Hamill noted, police must enforce the laws on the books.

“That’s why the state lawmakers need to take a look at this” he said.

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