Maryland Governor Pardons 175K Marijuana Arrests

The Democrat governor of Maryland last Monday ordered the pardons of over 175,000 convictions for misdemeanor marijuana-related crimes now that the state has legalized personal cannabis use.

During a press conference announcing the move, Governor Wes Moore described the order as the “most sweeping state-level pardon” in the country that would affect “tens of thousands” of Maryland residents.

While the order pardons over 175,000 convictions, some Maryland residents could receive more than one pardon if they have multiple marijuana-related convictions.

Governor Moore told reporters that the actions his administration was taking were “intentional,” “sweeping,” and “unapologetic.”

The pardons will not result in the automatic release of those incarcerated, nor will they automatically expunge previous convictions from criminal background checks. However, activists praised the order, arguing that it would remove barriers that prevented those convicted of marijuana-related misdemeanors from obtaining employment, housing, or education for conduct that is no longer illegal in the state.

Maryland legalized the use of recreational cannabis in 2023 after 67 percent of voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2022 that decriminalized the possession of cannabis in personal use amounts.

So far, 24 states along with the District of Columbia have legalized recreational cannabis.

Governor Moore said the pardons reflected a change in how the government and society “view those who have been walled off from opportunity” due to policies that are “broken and uneven.”

While Moore lauded the decriminalization of marijuana in the state, he told reporters that legalization alone would not “turn back the clock” on the “decades of harm” caused by the country’s “war on drugs” or change the data that showed blacks in the state were three times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites.

He said the pardons would also accomplish what legalization did not, namely, removing the convictions that made it harder to obtain employment, housing, or an education.