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Senate passes marijuana decriminalization bill

Friday - 3/14/2014, 3:20pm  ET

Associated Press

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) -- The Maryland Senate has passed a measure making marijuana possession a civil offense.

The body approved Sen. Robert Zirkin's bill 36-8 on Friday after relatively little debate.

In their final push to get it passed, Zirkin and Sen. Christopher Shank argued states with similar laws have not seen surges in teens' marijuana use. About 18 other states impose fines instead of criminal charges.

Shank previously planned to speak against the bill. He says he directed staffers to find data showing it would drive up usage, but changed his mind on the bill when he realized that data don't exist.

Sen. Bryan Simonaire, an Anne Arundel County Republican, was the most vocal opponent Friday, saying the bill sends teens the "wrong message."

A parallel bill is pending before a House committee.

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