Zirkin: Hogan “Lying” About Drug Paraphernalia Bill

Senator Bobby Zirkin, chair of the Judicial Proceedings Committee, called out Governor Larry Hogan for “lying” about SB517, a bill vetoed by Hogan that would decriminalize possession of marijuana paraphernalia.

The sponsor of a bill decriminalizing drug paraphernalia is accusing Gov. Larry Hogan of lying about the bill in order to thwart a veto override vote scheduled for Thursday.

Sen. Robert A. “Bobby” Zirkin made the comments and challenged Hogan to a debate on the issue after reading a post on Hogan’s Change Maryland Facebook page.

“Out-of-touch legislators in Annapolis want to override Gov. Hogan’s common-sense veto of the toking while driving bill, making it legal to drive a vehicle while high on marijuana!” Hogan’s post reads.

Change Maryland is a grassroots organization started by Hogan that later morphed into his gubernatorial campaign.

“That statement is a complete and utter lie,” Zirkin said. “I’m not going to mince my words. It’s not an exaggeration. It’s not a misinterpretation. It’s a lie. Quite frankly, I call on (Hogan) to apologize to the citizens of Maryland. He owes the citizens of Maryland an apology for lying about the law. That’s typical politician stuff.”

The bill makes the possession of drug paraphernalia such as bongs and rolling paper a civil offense punishable by a $500 fine rather than a criminal offense. Supporters say the policy is consistent with state law that decriminalized small amounts of marijuana.

Zirkin said the bill in no way makes it legal to smoke in public or in a car.
“If the governor wants to come down and debate me, I’ll put a chair next to my desk on the floor (of the Senate),” Zirkin said. “If the governor needs legislation making it clear in bold print, in all capital letters and in yellow highlighter with cute little emojis so he can understand the law then I’m happy to do that.”

Zirkin is 100% right. I’ve handled driving while impaired by drugs cases for over two decades. Nothing - repeat nothing - in SB517 makes it legal to drive while under the influence of marijuana. If it’s repeated on the floor of the General Assembly, it’s another lie. What this bill does is prevent police from using paraphernalia charges in place of what they used to do with marijuana charges. Any lawyer can tell you how it goes: “Based on my training and experience, I smelled what I believed to be marijuana” now goes down as “Based on my training and experience, I observed what I believed to be marijuana paraphernalia.” Hogan is grandstanding on this matter, and legislators should close this loophole and override the veto without delay.


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