Tag: Decriminalization

Atlanta Marijuana Decriminalization Ordinance Becomes Law

Downtown Atlanta (Wikimedia Commons)

ATLANTA, GA — Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has signed legislation amending citywide marijuana possession penalties.

Members of the Atlanta city council unanimously approved municipal legislation last week decriminalizing cannabis possession offenses. Ordinance 17-0-1152 amends local law so that possession offenses involving up to one ounce of cannabis are punished by a civil fine of no more than $75 — no arrest, no jail, and no criminal record.

Under Georgia state law, minor marijuana possession offenses are classified as criminal misdemeanors, punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine.

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Atlanta City Council Votes Unanimously to Decriminalize Marijuana, Heads to Mayor’s Desk

ATLANTA, GA — Monday afternoon, after two hours of debate amongst the city council members, the Atlanta city council voted unanimously 15-0 to pass Ordinance 17-O-1152.

This legislation makes the possession of marijuana under one ounce a non-arrestable offense and lowers the fine to a maximum ticket of $75.

The mayor has eight days to decide whether to sign it.

One complicating factor is that under current Georgia state law, marijuana possession is illegal, so effective implementation will be dependent on law enforcement discretion.

Under Georgia state law, the possession of any amount of marijuana can result in 180 days of jail time, a fine of up to $1,000, and a litany of collateral consequences that impacts employment, housing, family and life opportunities.

“The city council sent a strong message that we need to end these wasteful and discriminatory arrests,” said Michelle Wright, policy manager at the Drug Policy Alliance. “This bill is an important step forward, but now it’s up to the Mayor to sign it and the police to implement it correctly and consistently.”

Since May, the legislation has been held by the council’s Public Safety and Legal Affairs Committee, but during last Tuesday’s meeting, the tide turned. It was brought to light that in Atlanta, the overwhelming number of arrests for marijuana are African Americans (92%), even though studies have determined usage is at similar levels across racial demographics.

This led to the Public Safety and Legal Affairs Committee moving the legislation forward to full council with a favorable recommendation.

Andre Dickens, the Chairman of the Public Safety and Legal Affairs Committee, stated “I support the ordinance which will reduce the offense of possessing less than an ounce of marijuana to a ticket/fine, rather than jail time. It is unfortunate, that although marijuana use is equal amongst all racial lines, more than ninety percent of all marijuana charges that require jail time are disproportionately given to African Americans. I support the valuable use of our police officers to focus on more serious crimes that have an immediate effect on our citizens and communities.”

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Atlanta Passes Marijuana Decriminalization Ordinance

Downtown Atlanta (Wikimedia Commons)

ATLANTA, GA — The Atlanta City Council unanimously voted to pass Ordinance 1700-1152 on Monday, decriminalizing marijuana possession offenses within the city.

This measure amends the local law so that the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is punishable by a $75 fine — no arrest, jail time, or criminal arrest record.

Annually, over 30,000 Georgians — many of whom reside in Atlanta — are arrested and charged with violating marijuana possession laws. Those arrested and convicted face up to one-year in prison, a $1,000 fine under state law, or up to six months in jail under local statutes.

National statistics indicate that African Americans are an estimated four times as likely as whites to be arrested for violating marijuana possession laws, despite using marijuana at rates similar to Caucasians.

“Court costs, the jail time, ruining young people’s lives, they lose their scholarships, it breaks up families, and it wastes our tax dollars. That’s the reason for doing this,” said Kwanza Hall, a city Councilman and candidate for Mayor.

With the passage of this measure, citizens of Atlanta no longer have to fear unnecessary jail time for possessing a drug that should not be illegal in the first place. However, because the law only applies to Atlanta city limits, it conflicts with the state law that calls for jail time and gives police leeway in deciding which law (state or city) should be enforced.

However, Atlanta has now joined the growing list of cities around the country that have adopted a more pragmatic approach for dealing with marijuana-related offenses on the local level.

This new ordinance may not be perfect, but it is a victory nonetheless.

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Atlanta Bill to Decriminalize Cannabis Moves Forward

A bill that would decriminalize cannabis possession in Atlanta has made the first big step toward becoming law, with the Atlanta city council’s public safety committee approving the bill and forwarding it to the full city council.”

According to Atlanta’s WGCL-TV, the bill was introduced back in March by city councilman Kwanza Hall, and seeks to reduce the penalty for possession of less than an ounce of cannabis to a $75 fine with no jail time.

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This is quite the dramatic change from Atlanta’s existing penalty for cannabis possession, which calls for up to six months in jail and fines of up to $1,000.

According to councilman Hall, who also is running for mayor of Atlanta, prosecuting low-level cannabis crimes it is a complete waste of civic funds that can have crushing effects on those arrested, from court costs to jail time. Then there’s the race problem.

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“In Atlanta and in Fulton County, 93 percent of the arrests for small amounts of marijuana are the arrests of African-Americans,” Hall told WGCL-TV earlier this month, calling it “the most biased rate of arrests in the country.”

Further support for decriminalization comes from Georgia State University police chief Joseph Spillane, who told Channel 11 News  that his officers in Atlanta frequently handle cannabis possession cases on campus, and that they need the discretion to simply give citations to some offenders rather than arresting them.

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Meanwhile, current Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed has told media that he remains conflicted about cannabis legalization, as he believes cannabis is a gateway drug. [Please consider using the “Is Cannabis a Gateway Drug? piece as an in-line story near this claim!] However, Reed has said that he also believes cannabis prohibition is a tool to disproportionately impact the poor and minorities.

If the full city council passes the decriminalization bill, Mayor Reed would have eight days to sign it into law or veto it. Stay tuned.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

FBI Reports More Than 653,000 Arrests for Marijuana Offenses in 2016

WASHINGTON, DC — An estimated 653,249 arrests were made nationwide for marijuana in 2016, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Crime In the United States (CIUS) report.

This means one person was arrested for marijuana approximately every 48 seconds on average in the United States.

“Arresting and citing nearly half a million people a year for a substance that is objectively safer than alcohol is a travesty,” said Morgan Fox, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Despite a steady shift in public opinion away from marijuana prohibition, and the growing number of states that are regulating marijuana like alcohol, marijuana consumers continue to be treated like criminals throughout the country. This is a shameful waste of resources and can create lifelong consequences for the people arrested.”

There are currently eight states that regulate marijuana similarly to alcohol for adults, four of which voted to do so in November 2016. Marijuana possession is also legal for adults in the District of Columbia.

Twenty-three states and D.C. considered legislation in 2017 to regulate marijuana, including in Vermont where the legislature approved such a measure before the governor vetoed it.

“Regulating marijuana for adults creates jobs, generates tax revenue, protects consumers, and takes money away from criminals,” Fox continued. “It is time for the federal government and the rest of the states to stop ruining peoples’ lives and enact sensible marijuana policies.”

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

New Hampshire’s Marijuana Decriminalization Law Takes Effect

CONCORD, NH — New Hampshire’s bill decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana officially took effect on Saturday, making New Hampshire the 22nd state in the nation — and the last of the New England states — to eliminate the possibility of jail time for simple marijuana possession.

“The governor and Legislature both deserve a lot of credit for moving the state forward with this commonsense reform,” said Matt Simon, the Manchester-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Unlike his predecessors, who opposed similar proposals, Gov. Sununu appears to understand that ‘Live Free or Die’ is more than just a motto on a license plate.

“A lot of credit also goes to the House, which has been supporting decriminalization bills since 2008,” Simon said. “It was refreshing to see the Senate finally come to an agreement with the House on this issue in 2017. This is a big step toward a more sensible marijuana policy for New Hampshire.”

HB 640 was introduced by Rep. Renny Cushing and a bipartisan group of co-sponsors in the House of Representatives, where it received overwhelming approval in February (318-36). The Senate amended and approved it on May 11 (17-6), and the House passed the Senate version by a voice vote on June 1. Gov. Sununu signed it on July 18.

This legislation reduces the penalty for possession of up to three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana from a criminal misdemeanor — currently punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000 — to a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine for a first or second offense and a $300 fine for a third offense within three years of the first offense. A fourth offense within three years of the first offense may be charged as a class B misdemeanor, but there would be no arrest or possibility of jail time.

“There is no good reason to continue arresting and prosecuting people for marijuana possession,” Simon said. “Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and Granite Staters are ready to see it treated that way. A very strong majority of state residents support ending marijuana prohibition altogether.

“New Hampshire lawmakers should continue to follow their constituents’ lead on this issue,” Simon said. “Every state in New England is either implementing or strongly considering legislation to regulate marijuana for adult use. It is time for the Legislature to develop a realistic marijuana prohibition exit strategy for New Hampshire.”

More than two-thirds of adults in New Hampshire (68%) support making marijuana legal, according to a Granite State Poll released last month by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

New Hampshire Decrim Kicks In On Saturday

Starting tomorrow, you will not face jail time for simple cannabis possession in any New England state, as New Hampshire becomes America’s 22nd state to decriminalize small amounts of cannabis possession, as new law will officially take effect on September 16.

The new lower penalty was introduced during the last legislative session by Rep. Renny Cushing (D), who led a bipartisan group of co-sponsors in the New Hampshire House. The bill passed the House with a vote of 318-36, while the Senate amended and approved it on May 11 with a vote of 17-6.

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The House would ultimately go on to pass the Senate version by a voice vote on June 1, and Gov. Sununu signed it on July 18.

Matt Simon, the Manchester-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said it was refreshing to see Gov. Sununu get behind cannabis decriminalization.

“The governor and Legislature both deserve a lot of credit for moving the state forward with this commonsense reform,” Simon said. “Unlike his predecessors, who opposed similar proposals, Gov. Sununu appears to understand that ‘Live Free or Die’ is more than just a motto on a license plate.”

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HB 640 reduces the penalty for cannabis possession of up to three-quarters of an ounce from a criminal misdemeanor—punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000—to a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine for a first or second offense, with a $300 fine for a third offense within three years of the first offense.

‘Don’t learn your lesson?’ Well, a fourth offense within three years of the first offense could end up resulting in a charge of a class B misdemeanor—still though, no possibility of jail time.

“There is no good reason to continue arresting and prosecuting people for marijuana possession,” Simon said. “Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and Granite Staters are ready to see it treated that way. A very strong majority of state residents support ending marijuana prohibition altogether.

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Simon was optimistic that New Hampshire would continue to build on this momentum and eventually legalize the adult use of cannabis.

“New Hampshire lawmakers should continue to follow their constituents’ lead on this issue,” he said. “Every state in New England is either implementing or strongly considering legislation to regulate marijuana for adult use. It is time for the Legislature to develop a realistic marijuana prohibition exit strategy for New Hampshire.”


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Vermont’s Supreme Court to Consider Cannabis ‘Sniff Test’

Vermont’s highest court is set to consider a case involving whether the simple smell of cannabis constitutes legal grounds to search and seize a driver’s vehicle.

In 2014, police in Vermont pulled over driver Greg Zullo, claiming his license plate was partially obscured by snow. After approaching Zullo’s car, a state trooper claimed he could smell cannabis and asked to search the vehicle. Zullo refused. So the trooper seized the car and towed it—leaving Zullo stranded eight miles from home in the dead of winter.

The stop has already cost trooper Lewis Hatch his job. “You have again placed your personal pursuit of drug detection above all else, including your duty to follow orders and your duty to properly and thoroughly document objective legal justification for your actions,” Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn wrote in a letter to Hatch five months before the officer was fired, relying on documents indicating Hatch had a history of conducting illegal searches.

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Now, in a case that could set sweeping precedent statewide, the Vermont Supreme Court will consider whether the stop was warranted—and whether the simple smell of cannabis can justify a search.

The case also turns on race. The ACLU of Vermont is representing Zullo, who is black, and argues the traffic stop was motivated at least in part by the color of his skin. A snow-obscured license plate isn’t a violation that allows officers to pull over a driver in Vermont, and studies—including some out of Vermont—have found that black men in particular are more likely than others to be searched after traffic stops.

“We question why the officer choose this particular car to pull over when almost every single car would have been in the same situation. The one difference that stands out is Greg’s race,” Lia Ernst, an ACLU attorney representing Zullo, told the website VTDigger in May. And Mark Davis, a reporter at Seven Days who’s been following the case, told Vermont Public Radio that Hatch, the former trooper, appeared to have a history of disproportionately targeting black men.

Zullo, who was 21 at the time of the stop, was left to pay a $150 towing fee. When authorities eventually searched the vehicle, according to the lawsuit, they found a grinder and a pipe that police said contained cannabis residue. Zullo was never ticketed or charged with a crime.

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After the suit was initially filed, Superior Court Judge Helen Toor ruled against Zullo, writing that the smell of cannabis alone—a so-called sniff test—does indeed provide probable cause to search a vehicle. “Vermont’s decriminalization statute explicitly states that it leaves unchanged marijuana’s ability to furnish probable cause,” she wrote. “The national consensus is that the mere smell of marijuana supports probable cause.”

In response, the ACLU appealed the case to the state Supreme Court.

US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor established the “plain smell doctrine” in a 1982 opinion involving a traffic stop. The officer smelled cannabis on the driver, which led to a search of his car and the discovery of cannabis in the trunk.

O’Connor’s opinion in that 1982 case, United States v. Haley, didn’t establish the plain small doctrine nationwide. The court left it open to each state to adopt or dismiss the doctrine.

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In many states, court precedent has indeed maintained that the smell of cannabis suffices as probable cause. Others, including Michigan and Montana, have expressly rejected it.

And as laws change, more states are beginning to second-guess the rule. In Colorado, for example, an appeals court recently held that the smell of cannabis alone isn’t enough to justify a vehicle search. Courts in Arizona and California have issued similar opinions, although in July 2016 the Arizona Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s opinion and reaffirmed that smell alone could justify a search in that state.

A ruling in the Vermont case isn’t expected until at least next year.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Australian States Split on Medical Cannabis

Access to cannabis for people with terminal illnesses and chronic pain was delayed last week when the New South Wales (NSW) state government blocked a law that would have decriminalized possession of marijuana for those suffering from serious medical conditions.

The legislation, which would have decriminalized possession of up to 15 grams of cannabis in cases where it was being used to treat chronic pain, was introduced by the opposition Labor party and blocked by the majority Liberal Legislative Assembly. Despite the fact that the proposed law grew out of the recommendations of a bipartisan parliamentary inquiry into the use of cannabis for medical purposes, no bipartisanship was present when it was voted down.

“By refusing to pass this legislation, the NSW Government has put up an unnecessary hurdle for sufferers of terminal and chronic illnesses.” NSW Labor Leader Luke Foley said in a statement.

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“It is deeply disappointing that the Government has denied legislation that will restore dignity to those people seeking temporary relief from the pain and suffering of their affliction. Those who are suffering from terminal and serious medical conditions deserve sympathy and support—and they should not be treated like a criminal for seeking respite from relentless and unwavering illness,” Foley continued.

“We are particularly concerned that the government has done little to ensure a consistent supply of regulated and affordable product.”

Sen. Lisa Singh, Tasmania

Further south, in the island state of Tasmania, another Labor politician has taken up the cause of medical cannabis in a different way. Sen. Lisa Singh has been campaigning in the senate for a quicker and more consistent cannabis licensing program.

In a speech to the Australian senate last week, Singh urged the government to enable the establishment of the medical cannabis industry in Tasmania. Specifically, she wants to ensure that the global opioid supplier Tasmania Alkaloids (which has partnered with medical cannabis company AusCann) can secure a closed-loop cannabis production chain.

“Closed-loop production is key to a successful Tasmanian medical cannabis industry,” Singh said, “The opportunity to grow, manufacture, and distribute directly from one location alleviates legitimate security concerns.”

Rather than focus solely on patient access issues, Singh is also eager to realise the economic benefits of a thriving medical cannabis industry in her state. “Tasmania is ideally positioned to become a manufacturing base both for the domestic and international markets in medicinal cannabis,” she said, “The Australian domestic market for medicinal cannabis has alone been estimated to be worth AU$100 million a year.”

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“If Tasmania is able to seize the opportunity of becoming a global leader in the cultivation and manufacture of medicinal cannabis, then there will be similar substantial economic benefits to reap for my home state like we have from cultivating the world’s legal opium crops,” she said.

But before that economic dream can be achieved, Singh says the federal government needs to develop a more consistent application of its medical cannabis laws across states.

“We are particularly concerned that the government has done little to ensure a consistent supply of regulated and affordable product, or to drive consistency across states on the legal treatment of people currently accessing medicinal cannabis.” Singh told Leafly.

The Tasmanian senator isn’t the only politician taking up the torch for the medical cannabis industry. Victorian Minister of Agriculture and Regional Development Jalaa Pulford recently visited medical cannabis facilities in Canada with CannGroup CEO Peter Crock.

This state-level support for medical cannabis is good news for growers and patients in some parts of Australia, but frustration will continue to rise in states like New South Wales if their governments continue to block efforts to extend compassionate treatment to medical cannabis patients.


Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.

Texas Holds Public Hearing on Reducing Penalties for Small Amounts of Marijuana

AUSTIN, TX — Texas House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee Chairman Joe Moody held a public hearing to discuss reducing state marijuana possession penalties on Wednesday and to support HB 334, which was introduced by Chairman Moody in the special legislative session in July.

HB 334 would make possession of a small amount of marijuana a civil citation punishable by a $250 fine but not a criminal conviction; courts can allow some of the fine to be paid off through the offender taking drug education courses or doing community service. For a third offense, the civil penalty must include a drug education requirement. On a fourth offense, a prosecutor can proceed with a Class C misdemeanor instead of a civil citation.

“This week’s hearing on drug enforcement reform is another step in the ongoing effort to right-size our drug penalties and be smarter on the issue,” said Chairman Moody. “It’s something we’ve been working on and will continue to work on through the interim, into the next session, and beyond for as long as it takes. I know we can do better, and I’ll keep fighting for that.”

Chairman Moody’s efforts have continued to be recognized by the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, which gave him their Law and Order Award the past three sessions, and by the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, which named him ‘Representative of the Year’ last session.

“Most Texans oppose current penalties for marijuana possession,” said Nick Novello, an active duty Dallas police officer with 35 years of experience. “Enforcing unpopular and unreasonable laws creates unnecessary hostility between law enforcement and the people in our communities.”

More than 60,000 Texans are arrested for marijuana possession annually, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Advocates assert that this distracts law enforcement and prosecutors from priorities like combating violent crime, which is on the rise in Texas.

A marijuana conviction can not only result in jail time, but carries collateral consequences and can make it difficult to find employment, obtain public housing, or qualify for student loans.

“Marijuana policy reform is coming to Texas sooner rather than later,” said Heather Fazio, Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “There is no reason to let this year’s session end without voting on this bill. Waiting until 2019 will only result in wasted law enforcement resources and tens of thousands of Texans being saddled with a criminal record for using a substance that is safer than alcohol.”

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Thank you for visiting MDMMCC.com, the premier Medical Marijuana Certification Center in Maryland. Our Mission at the Maryland Medical Marijuana Certification Clinics (MDMMCC) is to provide the certification necessary for qualified patients to obtain Medical Marijuana in compliance with the Maryland Medical Marijuana Laws in the State of Maryland.  MDMMCC will have offices open throughout Maryland.