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Maryland Gov. Wes Moore To Issue Mass Pardon of 175,000 Cannabis Convictions

A blanket pardon of cannabis-related conviction will help to clean up some of the mess impacting the state of Maryland due to cannabis laws that disproportionately affect communities of color. Maryland Gov. Wes Moore announced Monday that he will be issuing pardons for over 175,000 cannabis convictions, in an executive order.

“I’m ecstatic that we have a real opportunity with what I’m signing to right a lot of historical wrongs,” Moored told the Washington Post. “If you want to be able to create inclusive economic growth, it means you have to start removing these barriers that continue to disproportionately sit on communities of color.”

Moore is the only Black governor of any U.S. state, and the mass pardon falls on the same week as Juneteenth—a national holiday that symbolizes the end of slavery. The symbolic move to pardon cannabis convictions that impact communities of color greater sends a message.

Over 150,000 of the convictions eligible for pardon are misdemeanors for simple possession of cannabis, and another 18,000 misdemeanors are for use or possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia. The city of Baltimore alone makes up about a quarter of the entire list of convictions being pardoned, the governor’s office said. Gov. Moore released a video of the executive order announcement Monday. 

A pardon is defined as an act of complete forgiveness that absolves a person from the guilt of a criminal offense, and only a governor has the constitutional power to grant pardons.  And while a pardon restores the civil liberties that are lost as a result of a conviction, it doesn’t expunge a person’s criminal record. The record remains.

Cannabis-related criminal records end up preventing people from getting employment, housing, and education. And as states legalize adult-use of cannabis, others remain behind bars or haunted by cannabis convictions from the past.

Only the judicial branch has the power to expunge a record, however expungement laws were amended in 2022 to start wiping out cannabis-related convictions if this was the only crime charged on a person’s record, CBS News reports.

It’s one of the country’s biggest acts of clemency to date. Leaders in nine other states and numerous cities have pardoned hundreds of thousands of cannabis convictions in recent years. Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey, for instance, issued a blanket pardon last March that is also expected to impact hundreds of thousands of people in the state, The Hill reports.

But in this case, as Maryland is home to one of the country’s worst examples of disproportionately targeting Black people, representing a move that is greatly needed.

“White Maryland residents use cannabis at higher rates than Black residents, but Black people were more than twice as likely to be charged with possession,” the Washington Post reported. It’s one of the key reasons the governor decided to act.

State leaders also spoke out about why the pardons are needed, especially now. “While the pardons will extend to anyone and everyone with a misdemeanor conviction for the possession of marijuana or paraphernalia, this unequivocally, without any doubt or reservation, disproportionately impacts—in a good way—Black and Brown Marylanders,” Maryland Attorney General Anthony G. Brown told the Washington Post. “We are arrested and convicted at higher rates for possession and use of marijuana when the rate at which we used it was no different than any other category of people.” 

Last Prisoner Project Gets Involved with Maryland’s Mass Pardons

Last Prisoner Project (LPP) issued an announcement detailing the organization’s involvement in the mass pardon.

In a symbolic gesture, Gov. Moore granted these historic cannabis pardons using LPP’s “Pen to Right History”—”a pen that loved ones of people impacted by cannabis incarceration around the country have used to write letters to elected officials asking for justice.” The LPP challenges other governors and leaders across the country to use “Pen to Right History” in their own states.

LPP launched the Pardons to Progress campaign that has sent tens of thousands of letters to governors across the United States, urging them to act. Gov. Moore’s recent move was included in the LPP’s State of Cannabis Justice Report

“It has been nearly a year since Maryland passed full cannabis legalization, and at the same time that some are poised to profit off of this burgeoning industry, millions more remain burdened by the collateral consequences of a cannabis conviction,” said LPP Executive Director Sarah Gersten. “LPP is proud to be part of today’s historic announcement which is a crucial step in beginning to right the wrongs of our failed approach to cannabis policy.”

To verify if a Maryland resident is part of the mass pardon, they can check online or at a public courthouse kiosk

The post Maryland Gov. Wes Moore To Issue Mass Pardon of 175,000 Cannabis Convictions first appeared on High Times.

Rerolled from a High Times Original Article