Democratic Governor Pardons Over 175,000 Marijuana Convictions

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Robert Schmad Contributor
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Democratic Maryland Gov. Wes Moore signed an executive order pardoning an estimated 175,000 of marijuana-related convictions on Monday.

Moore announced that he would pardon anyone convicted of a marijuana possession charge or a drug paraphernalia charge tied to the possession or use of marijuana at a signing ceremony Monday. The governor stressed that the pardons will help to correct what he believes to be past harms inflicted on “communities of color” through the “war on drugs,” noting that his actions coincide with the week of Juneteenth, a holiday that has been referred to as “black independence day.”

“I’m ecstatic that we have a real opportunity with what I’m signing to right a lot of historical wrongs,” Moore 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.” (RELATED: Weed Advocates Are Ramping Up Lobbying Efforts And Notching Wins)

Moore has historically been friendly to the cannabis industry, releasing $40 million worth of previously-frozen funds to support the growth of the marijuana businesses in Maryland in January 2023. The Maryland governor held roughly $1.2 million worth of shares in a cannabis company that did business in Maryland before placing his assets in a blind trust in May 2023, NBC 4 Washington reported.

“Our current reality of disproportionate arrests and convictions are the residuals of slavery,” Democratic Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown said on Monday, according to CNN.

“Cannabis convictions for hundreds of thousands of people here in Maryland were scarlet letters, modern day shackles,” he continued. “I can almost hear the clanging of those shackles falling to the floor with your pardon this morning, governor.”

Moore’s pardon will cover an estimated 100,000 people, according to the Post. Individuals covered by Moore’s executive action will see their pardons marked in court records within two weeks and will be removed from criminal background check databases within 10 months, however, their convictions will still appear in public records.

Officials say the pardons will not result in anyone currently incarcerated being released from prison because no one in the state is currently imprisoned for minor possession, according to the Post. Prosecutions for criminal marijuana possession have stopped in Maryland as the state legalized recreational marijuana use on July 1, 2023.

Maryland isn’t the first state to issue mass pardons for people convicted of cannabis-related offenses, with Oregon, Massachusetts, Colorado, Illinois, Washington, Nevada, Pennsylvania, North Dakota and Wisconsin collectively pardoning hundreds of thousands convicted of such offenses, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Some states, like California, have fallen short of pardons, opting instead to expunge, seal or dismiss convictions, the Post reported.

The Maryland governor’s office did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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