Baltimore has just taken a major step forward in cannabis decriminalization, with an announcement by State Attorney Marilyn Mosby.
“No one who is serious about public safety can honestly say that spending resources to jail people for marijuana use is a smart way to use our limited time and money,”- said Mosby at a press conference held at the non-profit Center for Urban Families, this past Tuesday.
The measure is meant to reflect the State Attorney’s vision regarding marijuana legalization, in special relation to the consequences this type of law enforcement is currently having on Baltimore’s most vulnerable communities.
An Effort in Redirecting Valuable Resources
With a higher murder rate than any other big city in the country, and a murder clearance rate well under the national average, the city’s chief prosecutor is hoping this measure will help redirect Baltimore’s resources towards more urgent issues of public concern.
But the prosecutor is not only looking to balance the city’s resources for the future, as she is also looking to vacate nearly 5,000 prior marijuana convictions dating back as far as 2011. In her own words “There is no public safety value in prosecuting marijuana possessions, furthermore, there is no link between marijuana possession and violent crime.” – she added, quoting the examples of many states where cannabis has been legalized in some form, with no relation whatsoever to an increase in criminal behavior.
The decision to cease prosecuting possession charges, regardless of the suspect’s criminal history or amount of cannabis found, adds up to the State of Maryland’s growing list of achievements towards cannabis legalization. As well as a medical cannabis program started in 2013, possession of 10 grams or less was officially decriminalized statewide in 2014, followed by the 2016 decriminalization of public marijuana smoking.
Mosby’s office will continue to prosecute the illegal distribution of cannabis “as long as there is articulated evidence of intent to distribute beyond the mere fact of possession”- said the official statement.
Addressing Issues of Racial Inequality
“For far too long, we have sat back and idly watched as communities and families are literally destroyed by the failed policies of the war on drugs”- said the prosecutor.
As it was made clear, the measure is not only intended to update an unfair treatment regarding drug possession. It’s also an effort to protect the interests of Baltimore’s most vulnerable communities. “The statistics are damning when it comes to the disproportionate impact that the “War on Drugs” has had on communities of color.” – continued Mosby.
As it turns out, the rate of disparity between Black vs White arrestees for charges of marijuana possession is that of six to one, according to a report put together by the State’s Attorney’s office. This means a 50% increase from the nation’s average rate of disparity, which currently stands at four to one.
The prosecutor made a special mention to the cost the current situation is having on the issue of public trust: “Further exacerbating the distrust of communities of color throughout the city, is the disparate enforcement, vs the non-disparate use of marijuana”.
Still, it’s not all good news for cannabis users under Baltimore’s sky. Despite Mosby’s call for support by all members of the law enforcing community, the city’s police commissioner Gary Tuttle (who is also a former DEA agent) announced that “Baltimore Police will continue to make arrests for illegal marijuana possession unless and until the state legislature changes the law regarding marijuana possession”.