Maryland governor to grant mass pardon of marijuana convictions

Annapolis, Maryland - Maryland's governor will issue a mass pardon of drug offenses in a far-reaching move forgiving 175,000 low-level marijuana convictions across multiple decades.

Maryland Governor Wes Moore is reportedly planning to sign a pardon order for around 175,000 low-level marijuana convictions.
Maryland Governor Wes Moore is reportedly planning to sign a pardon order for around 175,000 low-level marijuana convictions.  © Andrew Harnik / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

The Washington Post, which reported the story, called it one of the country's most sweeping acts of clemency involving a drug that is now in broad recreational use, and noted the action is aimed at addressing social and economic injustice disproportionately impacting Black people.

Democrat Wes Moore, the state's first Black governor, told the Post he intends to "right a lot of historical wrongs" by signing the pardon order, set to be implemented early Monday.

He said the scope of the pardons – affecting some 100,000 people – amounted to "the most far-reaching and aggressive" executive action nationwide by officials looking to erase criminal justice inequities as more states ease marijuana laws.

Hunter Biden leans on Trump legal argument in criminal case dismissal request
Joe Biden Hunter Biden leans on Trump legal argument in criminal case dismissal request

After a state-wide referendum, Maryland legalized cannabis for adults and retail sales of the drug in 2023.

"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," Moore told the Post.

He added that criminal records have been used to deny people employment, education, and housing long after they have served their sentences.

Black Marylanders disproportionately impacted by marijuana arrests

Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown said the pardons will extend to anyone with a misdemeanor conviction for possession of marijuana or paraphernalia, telling the Post it "disproportionately impacts – in a good way – Black and Brown Marylanders."

While the state's population of six million is 33% Black, more than 70% of Maryland's male incarcerated population is Black, the Post reported, citing state data.

According to the American Civil Liberties Union, Black people are more than three times more likely than white people to be arrested for possessing marijuana.

Cover photo: Andrew Harnik / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

More on Politicians: