Maryland continues debate over marijuana decriminalization

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJLA) - Cheryl Meyers’ two-and-a-half-year-old son Gavin died last November from a severe form of epilepsy.

"He was a happy boy, he loved life," she says. Cheryl believes her son's life could have been extended with medical marijuana.

"He passed away, but there's still may children that could benefit from it -- and that's why I'm here today."

On Tuesday in a packed Maryland Senate Committee room with a diverse crowd of people both for and against the relaxation of marijuana laws, there was discussion over a bill that would decriminalize the use of marijuana, making it subject only to a fine.

Another bill would legalize, tax, and regulate recreational use as in Colorado, and a third would make medical pot more readily available for potential patients like Meyer.

"All we've succeeded in doing with mariuana prohibition is building up the power of drug gangs and organized crime," said Senator Jamin Raskin.

Montgomery County Senator Raskin is pushing for the legalization of marijuana, and says that too many people are getting career-crushing criminal records – a view shared by pot advocate Dexter Heinonen.

"I don't feel like it's correct for people to keep being arrested for puffing on a joint or doing whatever," he said.

On the opposite side of the argument is law enforcement. Dozens of Maryland Chiefs of Police and Sheriffs gathered in Annapolis to speak out against the marijuana bills.

I think we're asking for problems," said Chief Mark Magaw.

Polls show that just under half of Marylanders now support legalizing marijuana. We sampled opinions in Greenbelt on Tuesday and heard both sides.

"I think they should legalize marijuana because it actually would reduce crime," said Jonathan Smith.

"It causes you to do silly things -- it's just not good for you and it's not good for our youth at all," countered Arlene Page.