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News

Maryland Governor Is Pardoning 175,000 Cannabis-Related Convictions

Emily Mullins

by Emily Mullins

June 18, 2024 01:14 pm ET Estimated Read Time: 3 Minutes
Fact checked by Kymberly Drapcho
Maryland Governor Is Pardoning 175,000 Cannabis-Related Convictions

As cannabis reform continues to take the nation by storm, the government is finally taking notice and enacting larger changes to go along with the shifts in public perceptions of marijuana. One of these, of course, is the federal government’s recent decision to reschedule cannabis to Schedule III, but major changes are happening at the state level as well.

One of these involves Maryland Governor West Moore’s recent decision to pardon more than 175,000 cannabis convictions for state citizens in what he dubbed “the most sweeping state-level pardon in any state in American history.”

Maryland legalized recreational cannabis just last year, making this an ideal time for swift legal reform to prevent people with marijuana convictions from continuing to face unjust charges. Most of the charges are misdemeanors; 150,000 are related to possession, and roughly 18,000 are for possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia.

It’s unclear exactly how many people these pardons will exonerate since some residents may have multiple convictions. Additionally, people with convictions that predate the state’s computerized system will also have a chance to have their convictions dissolved.

“We cannot celebrate the benefits of legalization if we do not address the consequences of criminalization,” Moore stated before signing Monday’s executive order.

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While this is undoubtedly a huge move with historic implications, there is still more work to be done. Unfortunately, the pardons will not actually release anybody currently imprisoned, but this will hopefully change in the future as more reform is enacted. Moore is certainly considering the impact of criminalization and the War on Drugs on minority communities, as he discussed.

“Legalization doesn’t erase the fact that Black Marylanders were three times more likely to be arrested for cannabis than white Marylanders before legalization,” he stated.

“If you look at the past, you see how policies have been intentionally deployed to hold back entire communities,” he continued. “We’re talking about tools that have led to the mass incarceration of Black men and boys.”

Maryland residents with cannabis convictions do not need to take any action to have their records expunged–the state will begin working through its system and clearing them out automatically. Simultaneously, the state is working toward providing economic opportunities to people who would like to take advantage of the new recreational market.

“In March, we conducted our first adult-use cannabis licensing round, and all 174 licenses were awarded exclusively to social equity applicants,” Moore said, following an initiative that was first launched last year. “And to be clear, that’s the first time that that has happened in our nation’s history.”

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