Residents of Maryland who are minimum wage workers and those who use marijuana unite: changes are happening. Laws were passed Monday, decriminalizing possession of marijuana and raising the minimum wage for workers.
The law in Maryland for any adult caught with a small amount of marijuana (under 10 grams,) has been changed so that they would need to pay a fine and be issued a citation, similar to receiving a traffic ticket. The only things that have changed is that the adult caught with the illegal substance would no longer have to spend jail time and the fine has been lowered. Democratic Governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley has stated that he plans to sign the law.
Maryland’s Senate tried to pass a law, in March, stating that possession of marijuana would be treated as a civil offense instead of a criminal offense, and the result would have been a $100 fine instead of a $500 fine and 90-day jail sentence. It was not approved. The bill was reworked, and passed its second time with things differing from the original proposal, including the notion that anyone who repeatedly broke the law would face stiffer penalties each time.
As for the minimum wage, Maryland is the second state, after Connecticut, to raise the minimum wage for its workers to $10.10 an hour. That amount was set by the President of the United States, Barack Obama, as he was trying to persuade Congress to set that amount for minimum-wage workers across the nation.
The Senate in Minnesota also reached a deal Monday, raising the $7.25 minimum wage in the state to $9.59. Other states have been following the lead. Along with Maryland, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island are raising their minimum wage for workers by nearly $1 more. In California, a rate increase will take place later this year, on July 1. Other smaller increases will take place in nine other states including Colorado, Florida, and Washington.
The wage increase taking place in Maryland will start with a raise from $7.25 an hour to $8 an hour next year on January 1, 2015, and continually rise with four other increases, eventually reaching the $10.10 mark. Lawmakers approved the law with a vote tallying 87-47.
President Obama voiced his support of Maryland’s legislature on Monday, stating that he believes they did the right thing. “The things Maryland has achieved for minimum wage workers should serve as a reminder that there are many states and counties, as well as people, who are ahead of Washington D.C. on this very important issue.” The President did not mention the other changes in Maryland concerning marijuana.
The changes in Maryland concerning marijuana and minimum wage are only echoing changes that appear to be occurring throughout the nation. Other states are also decriminalizing marijuana, changing the laws to something less stiff for possession of small amounts of marijuana. It is allowed in twenty states and the District of Columbia to use marijuana for treatment with various illnesses and health ailments, and it has been legalized for recreational use in both Washington and Colorado.
By Jessica Cooley