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Over 175,000 Marijuana Convictions Pardoned by Maryland Governor

Historic Move Sparks Debate on Criminal Justice and Social Equity.

Maryland's Democratic Governor Wes Moore has taken a groundbreaking step by signing an executive order to pardon over 175,000 marijuana convictions. This sweeping measure follows the state's legalization of recreational marijuana last year and is set to impact approximately 100,000 individuals with misdemeanor convictions for simple cannabis possession or possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia.

Governor Moore's decision positions Maryland as the first state to issue such extensive pardons for drug paraphernalia-related convictions. The governor emphasized the importance of addressing past injustices linked to the criminalization of marijuana to fully realize the benefits of its legalization. "We cannot celebrate the benefits of legalization if we do not address the consequences of criminalization," Moore stated. "So I want to be clear: When it comes to cannabis, rolling out one of the best and most equitable legal markets in the country is incredibly important. But that rollout must go hand in hand with pardoning past conduct, and Maryland is going to lead by example."

Key Points:

  • Impact on Individuals: The executive order will help Marylanders previously convicted of marijuana-related misdemeanors by removing barriers to housing, employment, and educational opportunities that stem from these convictions.

  • Social Equity Commitment: Governor Moore's office reaffirmed its commitment to social equity and the fair administration of justice, highlighting that current laws should reflect modern views on cannabis use and possession.

  • Racial Justice: Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown underscored the racial justice aspect of the pardons, noting that the order particularly benefits African Americans and other communities of color who have been disproportionately impacted by past drug enforcement policies.

"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," Brown said.

Maryland joins 24 other states and Washington, D.C., in legalizing recreational marijuana. While other jurisdictions have issued pardons for low-level marijuana offenses, Moore's executive order is notable for its scope and scale. Earlier this year, Massachusetts Democratic Governor Maura Healey also issued mass pardons for marijuana possession convictions, reflecting a growing trend among states to rectify the harms caused by previous cannabis laws.

On a national level, President Joe Biden is reportedly considering reclassifying recreational marijuana as a Schedule III substance, which would lower its classification from Schedule I, where it is currently listed alongside heroin and LSD. Schedule III drugs are characterized by a moderate to low potential for physical and psychological dependence, contrasting with Schedule I's high abuse potential and lack of accepted medical use.

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