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Governor Wes Moore Pardons More Than 175,000 Marijuana Convictions

Maryland Governor Wes Moore issued pardons for over 175,000 marijuana convictions, marking a significant act of clemency reflecting changing attitudes towards marijuana. The pardons will clear low-level marijuana possession and paraphernalia charges for approximately 100,000 people, with some individuals having multiple convictions pardoned. 

"This is about changing how both government and society view those who have been walled off from opportunity because of broken and uneven policies," Moore said at a signing event Monday, almost two years after Maryland voters approved a constitutional amendment legalizing recreational marijuana for people 21 and older.

This action follows Maryland voters' approval of recreational marijuana legalization for adults 21 and older. The governor described it as the most extensive state-level pardon in U.S. history, coinciding with Juneteenth, to acknowledge its disproportionate impact on Black and Brown communities.

The pardons cover over 150,000 misdemeanor convictions for simple cannabis possession and more than 18,000 for possession with intent to use paraphernalia, with around 25% from Baltimore.

"We cannot celebrate the benefits of legalization if we do not address the consequences of criminalization," Moore said, noting that the convictions pardoned Monday meant "a harder time with everything – everything from housing to employment to education."

Maryland Attorney General Anthony G. Brown highlighted the bias in drug-related arrests and sentencing, describing cannabis convictions as modern-day shackles, and praised the pardons as lifting these burdens. Moore emphasized that addressing the consequences of criminalization is crucial alongside celebrating legalization benefits.

This move is part of a broader trend of easing marijuana restrictions, with 24 states, two territories, and Washington, DC, legalizing recreational use, and 38 states allowing medical use. Federally, marijuana remains illegal but may be reclassified from Schedule I to Schedule III, as recommended by the U.S. Department of Justice, following a review directed by President Biden. The cannabis industry is projected to generate $32.1 billion in sales this year.

Governor Wes Moore's decision to pardon over 175,000 marijuana convictions in Maryland is a monumental step towards justice and equity, especially for communities disproportionately affected by harsh drug laws. This act not only acknowledges the changing attitudes towards marijuana but also addresses the profound injustices that have walled off opportunities for many.

Link: CNN


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