Maryland's Governor Is About to Issue a Mass Pot Pardon

About 100K people will receive clemency for misdemeanor pot possession
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 17, 2024 7:29 AM CDT
Maryland to 'Right a Lot of Historical Wrongs' on Marijuana
Maryland Gov. Wes Moore speaks on May 29 in Philadelphia,   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Good news for many who've been busted with pot in the state of Maryland: Gov. Wes Moore is set to put out a mass pardon on Monday for more than 175,000 marijuana convictions, forgiving low-level possession charges for about 100,000 people. The Washington Post notes the move is "one of the nation's most sweeping acts of clemency" involving the drug that's now legal in about two dozen states for recreational use. Moore is expected to sign an executive order pardoning the misdemeanors for drug or paraphernalia possession on Monday morning in Annapolis, alongside his state's attorney general, Anthony Brown, per the AP.

"I'm ecstatic that we have a real opportunity ... to right a lot of historical wrongs," Moore said, calling his initiative the "most far-reaching and aggressive" in the nation on this matter. "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." He added that people's criminal records can stymie their efforts to attain housing, jobs, and educational opportunities.

Maryland legalized recreational marijuana in 2023 after a voter-approved amendment was passed the previous year. CNN also notes that cannabis has gone through a "sea change" in terms of how Americans view it, with 70% noting in a Gallup poll from late last year that they approve of legalizing it; a decade earlier, that percentage was just 51%. According to the ACLU, however, Black individuals are three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white ones.

story continues below

In Maryland specifically, a recent state report found that Black residents were more than twice as likely to get hit with a possession charge as white residents, even though white residents use marijuana at higher rates than Black residents. Maryland officials note that none of those pardoned—which will include the deceased—will be set free from prison, as none are currently in prison. Their records will be changed in state court records over the next couple of weeks, and they'll be scrubbed from criminal background check databases over the next 10 months. The mass pardon "unequivocally, without any doubt or reservation, disproportionately impacts—in a good way—Black and Brown Marylanders," Brown said. (More marijuana stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.