HomeNewsMaryland Governor Issuing Marijuana Pardons En Masse

Maryland Governor Issuing Marijuana Pardons En Masse

Maryland Governor Wes Moore is granting clemency for 175,000 convictions for misdemeanour possession of cannabis and related paraphernalia.

Described as the “most sweeping state-level pardon in any state in American history”, Governor Moore said his Executive Order would change the lives of hundreds of thousands of the state’s residents.

In 2022, Maryland’s General Assembly passed a Constitutional amendment legalizing the use or possession of cannabis by persons at least 21 years of age. The amendment also allowed for the distribution, regulation, and taxation of adult use cannabis. The amendment then went before the state’s voters for their approval, or otherwise. More than two-thirds of voters approved the measure and it became part of the Maryland Constitution on July 1, 2023.

While recreational marijuana became legal, that didn’t do anything for the many, many Marylanders who had a criminal record resulting from simple possession prior. Having a record creates barriers to some employment, housing and educational opportunities.

“No one should continue to suffer the effects of a conviction for conduct that is no longer a crime in the State of Maryland,” says the Governor’s Executive Order.

To this end, the governor asked the Maryland Judiciary to identify and compile a list of electronically available case records for individuals who were convicted of misdemeanour cannabis possession or for misdemeanour use or possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia for conduct that occurred prior to January 1, 2023. From this list, Governor Moore identified the convictions eligible for a full pardon.

He has directed the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to develop a process to indicate on criminal background checks which individuals’ convictions have been pardoned.

Commenting more broadly on marijuana pardons, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said:

“Hundreds of thousands of Americans unduly carry the burden and stigma of a past conviction for behavior that most Americans, and a growing number of states, no longer consider to be a crime. Our sense of justice and our principles of fairness demand that public officials and the courts move swiftly to right the past wrongs of cannabis prohibition and criminalization.”

While adult-use marijuana was only recently legalized in the state, Maryland’s medical cannabis program has been operating for much longer – but it took a long time to happen. The program was signed into law in 2014, but Maryland residents with qualifying conditions weren’t able to start registering until April 2017, at which point medicines still weren’t available.

Terry Lassitenaz
Terry Lassitenaz writes exclusively for Hemp Gazette and has done so since the site launched in 2015. He has a special interest in the political arena relating to medical cannabis, particularly in Australia, and addressing the many myths surrounding this incredibly useful plant. You can contact Terry here.

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