Officials will no longer prosecute marijuana possession offenses in Baltimore, as per a new policy unveiled today by the office of the State’s Attorney for Baltimore City.
Under the plan, which takes immediate effect, the office will also move to expunge the criminal records of an estimated 5,000 citizens previously convicted for cannabis-related offenses. The office’s decision to cease targeting minor marijuana violations is similar to actions recently taken by prosecutors in a number of major cities, including St. Louis, Missouri; Westchester, New York; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Norfolk, Virginia, among others.
Commenting on the new policy, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: "The State’s Attorney for the city of Baltimore is to be commended for taking this proactive stance. Branding individuals — many of whom are at an age when they are just beginning their professional careers — as lifelong criminals for minor marijuana possession offenses results in a litany of lost opportunities including the potential loss of employment, housing, professional licensing, and student aid, and serves no legitimate societal purpose. This change is a recognition that marijuana criminalization is a disproportionate public policy response to behavior that is, at worst, a public health concern. But it should not be a criminal justice matter.”
State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said at a press conference that the new policy will provide "a major step forward in making Baltimore city safer, fairer, and more equitable, and even more just."
The Office will continue to take action against felony cases involving the possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, though prosecutors will refer all first-time offenders to diversion programs.