Maryland governor pardons 175,000 marijuana convictions

 June 18, 2024

The Democratic governor of Maryland granted a mass pardon Monday to drug offenders.

The pardon affects 175,000 marijuana convictions, Governor Wes Moore said. He wasn't shy about the scale of his "sweeping and unapologetic" action which he called the largest of its kind in the nation.

It's an ambitious step in a nationwide leftist movement to decriminalize drugs in the name of racial justice.

Mass pardon granted

Moore said the pardon would begin to rectify the "harm" of enforcing drug laws that he said unfairly targeted black people.

Maryland decriminalized marijuana possession for personal use last year.

The pardon will not cause anyone to be released from jail, Moore said. But it could make it easier for those pardoned to find jobs and housing.

“We cannot celebrate the benefits of legalization if we do not address the consequences of criminalization,” Moore said. “Undoing decades of harm cannot happen in a day, but we’re going to keep up the work,” Moore said.

The governor said he timed the pardon to coincide with the Juneteenth holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S. The pardon affects 150,000 convictions for simple possession of cannabis. It also affects 18,000 for use or possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia.

"I’m ecstatic that we have a real opportunity with what I’m signing to right a lot of historical wrongs," Moore said.

"Racial justice"

The Democratic attorney general Anthony Brown also left no doubt that the pardon is racially motivated.

“It’s about racial justice. While the order applies to all who meet its criteria the impact is a triumphant victory for African Americans and other Marylanders of color who were disproportionately arrested, convicted and sentenced for actions yesterday that are lawful today," he said.

In numerous states, restrictions on marijuana have relaxed in recent years as Americans have grown more tolerant of the drug. The drug remains illegal at the federal level.

At the national level, Joe Biden has pardoned thousands of marijuana offenders. He also has reclassified the drug as a less harmful substance, although marijuana has actually become more potent and dangerous.

“Sending people to prison just for possessing marijuana has upended too many lives and incarcerated people for conduct that many states no longer prohibit,” Biden wrote on X. “It’s time that we right these wrongs.”

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