Governor Pardons Over 175,000

( Maryland Governor Wes Moore signed an executive order on June 17 to pardon more than 175,000 people convicted on marijuana-related criminal charges in the state. Moore framed the move as an effort to remedy the consequences of such convictions on the state’s black population, which he claims was disproportionately impacted by criminalization of marijuana.

The executive action pardoned convictions related to possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. The order is the largest pardon for misdemeanor marijuana possession charges for any state, Moore’s office said in a statement.

In 2023, Maryland legalized recreational marijuana. People in Maryland should not face barriers to housing, employment, or education due to convictions for conduct that is no longer illegal, the statement said.

Police were three times more likely to arrest black Marylanders for marijuana-related crimes than their white counterparts prior to legalization, according to Moore. Marijuana laws “disproportionately and overwhelmingly” burdened communities of color in the state, Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown said.

Moore’s statement clarifies that the convictions will be pardoned, not expunged from records. The conviction will still appear on an individual’s criminal record with a note acknowledging the pardon.

Maryland’s state-level action on marijuana policy comes amid efforts by the Biden administration to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule III drug—a lower level than its current Schedule I status under the Controlled Substances Act. The reclassification would recognize marijuana as a substance with moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence, whereas it is currently recognized as having a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use.

The US Justice Department officially proposed the policy change in May, which launched a 60-day comment period before the department makes a final decision on the matter. A joint policy review by the Justice Department and Department of Health and Human Services found that there is some credible scientific evidence to support the use of marijuana in certain medical situations.

The federal government may ultimately take action on marijuana policy, while states like Maryland continue to address the issue on their own in the meantime.

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