Written by Ashton Snyder on
 June 19, 2024

Governor Wes Moore Pardons Record Number of Marijuana Convictions in U.S. History

According to Daily Mail, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore has announced the largest mass pardon in United States history, impacting over 175,000 marijuana convictions.

The pardon aims to address the longstanding impact of the War on Drugs and assist individuals with prior convictions in accessing employment, housing, and educational opportunities.

On Monday, Gov. Wes Moore signed the unprecedented order, which covers more than 150,000 misdemeanor convictions for simple possession and over 18,000 misdemeanor convictions for use or possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia.

This sweeping measure follows Maryland's legalization of recreational marijuana in 2023, which voters endorsed through a constitutional amendment.

Speaking on the significance of the action, Gov. Moore described it as “the most sweeping state-level pardon in any state.” He emphasized the intentional and unapologetic nature of the move, considering it the largest such action in U.S. history. Moore underscored that this is about changing both governmental and societal views of those who have faced barriers due to “broken and uneven policies.”

Addressing the Harms of the War on Drugs

The governor recognized that the legalization of marijuana cannot undo the damage inflicted by the War on Drugs. He highlighted the racial disparities in arrests, noting that black Marylanders were three times more likely to be arrested for cannabis-related offenses than their white counterparts before legalization. Moore emphasized that having a conviction on one’s record creates significant hurdles in many areas of life, including housing, employment, and education.

Individuals with multiple convictions may also benefit from the pardon. The state's judiciary is tasked with updating electronic dockets to reflect the pardons within two weeks. Meanwhile, the Department of Corrections has up to ten months to inform criminal records of the pardons. Marylanders with convictions predating electronic records must individually apply for pardons, and those seeking expungement of their records can petition the state court system.

Reaction and Support from Officials

State Attorney General Anthony Brown praised the move as "long overdue." He stated that the nation has waited far too long to correct the injustices of a system that should be equitable for all. Brown highlighted the racial justice aspect, noting that while the order applies universally, it represents a significant victory for African Americans and other people of color in Maryland, who the War disproportionately impacted on Drugs.

He poetically described cannabis convictions as "scarlet letters" and "modern-day shackles." Brown also praised Gov. Moore’s order, saying, “I can almost hear the clinging of those shackles falling to the floor with your pardon this morning, governor.”

Shiloh Jordan, a Maryland resident, shared the personal impact of the pardons. “It means a lot because I know a lot of people that have been convicted for petty cannabis charges, and it really affected their whole way of life and their whole way of thinking,” Jordan said.

Joining Other States and Federal Action

Maryland now joins nine other states that have implemented large-scale marijuana conviction pardons. This aligns with a growing trend towards reevaluating and addressing the consequences of historical drug policies. In December, President Joe Biden pardoned thousands of federal and DC-based marijuana convictions, reflecting a broader shift in national policy towards cannabis-related offenses.

In conclusion, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore’s historic pardon of over 175,000 marijuana convictions aims to reverse the harms caused by the War on Drugs and assist individuals in accessing vital opportunities. The move follows Maryland’s 2023 legalization of recreational marijuana and includes more than 150,000 misdemeanor convictions for simple possession and over 18,000 for drug paraphernalia.

Reactions from State Attorney General Anthony Brown and residents like Shiloh Jordan underscore the relief and significance of this action. By joining other states and following federal trends, Maryland marks a significant step in addressing past cannabis-related injustices.

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About Ashton Snyder

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