Governor Signs Executive Ordering Pardoning 175,000 Maryland Cannabis Convictions

These were for misdemeanor convictions regarding possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

Gov Wes Moore after signing executive order, June 17th, 2024  (Photo from Governor Wes Moore’s Facebook page)

Annapolis, Md (KM) With a large crowd at the State House looking on, Governor Wes Moore signed an executive order on Monday pardoning 175,000 individuals in Maryland with misdemeanor convictions of cannabis possession and misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia. He noted that Marylanders in a referendum in 2022 approved the legalization of recreational cannabis for adults. “Legalization does not erase the fact that nearly half of all drug arrests in Maryland during the early 2000’s were for cannabis,” he said. “It doesn’t erase the fact that Black Marylanders were three times more likely to be  arrested for cannabis then  White Marylanders  before legalization.”

The Governor’s Office says in a press release that of the 175,000 pardons issued, more than 150,000 represent misdemeanor convictions for simple cannabis possession,  and more than 18,000 represent misdemeanors for use or possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia.

Even though recreational use of cannabis is legal, Governor Moore said these misdemeanor convictions still remain on these individuals’ criminal records. “Having a conviction on your record means a harder time with everything, everything, from housing to employment to education,”: he says.

As a result of this executive order, the Governor’s Office says the Maryland Judiciary will ensure that each individual’s electronic docket  is updated with an entry which indicates that conviction has been pardoned by the Governor. That process is expected to take about two weeks.

Individuals do not need to take any action, according to the Governor’s Office,  to receive the pardon.   But they can check on line, or verify it at a public kiosk at any courthouse in the state to determine if they were included in the pardon.

The Governor’s Executive order also directs the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to develop a process to indicate on a person’s criminal record that the conviction has been pardoned. That’s expected to take about ten months to complete,.

President Joe Biden issued a mass pardon of federal marijuana convictions in 2022, and he called on governors to do the same thing at the state level. Prior to Governor Moore’s executive order, nine other states had  taken similar action.

On hand for the signing on Monday was Maryland Attorney General Andrew Brown who said this action was about equity and racial justice. . “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 disproportionally arrested, convicted and sentenced for actions yesterday that are lawful today. Today is a momentous day for Maryland,”  Brown said to applause.

By Kevin McManus