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Maryland Governor Pardons 175,000 Marijuana Convictions

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — More than 175,000 marijuana convictions will be pardoned in Maryland under an executive order signed by Gov. Wes Moore on Monday, ABC News reported.

Calling it the most sweeping state-level pardon in the nation’s history, Moore said the action would affect tens of thousands of people in Maryland who were convicted of marijuana misdemeanors, some of whom may have had more than one conviction.

The pardons include more than 150,000 misdemeanor convictions for simple possession of cannabis and more than 18,000 misdemeanor convictions for use or possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia.

Moore said the order would ease some of the harmful impact those convictions have had on people’s lives.

“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, adding,“legalization does not turn back the clock on decades of harm that was caused by this war on drugs.”

Recreational cannabis was legalized in Maryland in 2023 after voters approved a constitutional amendment the previous year. The governor’s office said the executive order makes Maryland the first state in the U.S. to issue mass pardons on cannabis paraphernalia-related convictions.

“It doesn’t erase the fact that Black Marylanders were three times more likely to be arrested for cannabis than white Marylanders before legalization,” said Moore. “It doesn’t erase the fact that having a conviction on your record means a harder time with everything, everything, from housing, to employment to education.”

Heather Warnken, executive director of the University of Baltimore School of Law Center for Criminal Justice Reform. described the pardons as “a win for thousands of Marylanders getting a fresh start to pursue education, employment, and other forms of economic opportunity without the stain of a criminal conviction.”

The pardons will not result in the release of incarcerated individuals and does not remove the convictions entirely from people’s criminal records. People in Maryland whose convictions are pardoned can apply to a state court for expungement of their records.

Moore’s order was hailed by marijuana legalization advocates. “The sheer number of folks who will be pardoned under the actions plus the fact that paraphernalia was included, that does make it significant,” said Maritza Perez Medina, director of federal affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group that supports drug legalization.

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