Governor Moore Holding Cannabis Pardon Executive Order

A Bold and Decisive Action for Equal Justice: Gov. Moore Pardons 175,000 Marijuana Convictions

Governor Wes Moore has signed an executive order to pardon 175,000 individuals with cannabis-related convictions in Maryland. This unprecedented move aims to rectify the social and economic injustices caused by past marijuana criminalization, particularly affecting communities of color.

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Governor Wes Moore today signed a historic executive order pardoning 175,000 Maryland convictions related to the possession of cannabis, including convictions for misdemeanor possession of cannabis and certain convictions for misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia. 

The order represents the largest pardon for misdemeanor cannabis possession charges for any state in the country and the inclusion of paraphernalia makes Maryland the first state to take such action.

“Maryland made history when we legalized cannabis by referendum. But we cannot celebrate the benefits of legalization while forgetting the consequences of criminalization. No Marylander should face barriers to housing, employment, or education based on convictions for conduct that is no longer illegal,” said Gov. Moore. 

Governor Moore Holding Pen

“Today, we take a big step forward toward ensuring equal justice for all. But this won’t be our last effort. We must continue to move in partnership to build a state and society that is more equitable, more just, and leaves no one behind.”

Pardon Details

Of the 175,000 pardons issued, more than 150,000 represent misdemeanor convictions for simple cannabis possession and more than 18,000 represent misdemeanor convictions for use or possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia. Eligibility criteria include:

  • Convictions for misdemeanor possession of cannabis or misdemeanor use or possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia
  • Convictions for paraphernalia were in cases associated with misdemeanor cannabis possession and no other charges
  • Related disposition of guilty or probation before judgment
  • Charges occurring prior to January 1, 2023, when possession of personal use amount of cannabis was decriminalized

As a result, the Maryland Judiciary will update each individual’s electronic docket indicating the conviction has been pardoned, expected to take approximately 2 weeks.

The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services will also update criminal records to reflect the pardons within 10 months.

Shiloh Signing Paperwork

Addressing Racial Disparities

“The enforcement of cannabis laws has disproportionately and overwhelmingly burdened communities of color. Opportunities were denied because those who were convicted faced steep obstacles to jobs, education, and housing,” said Attorney General Anthony G. Brown. “Governor Moore’s pardons will remove these barriers and enable thousands of Marylanders to lead productive lives without the impediments created by their prior convictions.

“Moore, the first Black governor of Maryland, and Brown, the first Black attorney general, emphasized the need to undo the intentional harm caused by past drug policies that targeted marginalized communities.

What Next?

Individuals do not need to take action to receive the pardon. After the Judiciary updates records, they can verify online or at courthouses. Those eligible but not included can apply through the regular pardon process, such as for pre-electronic convictions. A pardon differs from an expungement, which destroys and removes a conviction from public records. Individuals wanting expungement must file separately.

“This courageous action by Governor Moore is an important piece of a much bigger puzzle of addressing the devastating drug war which disproportionately harmed, and continues to harm, marginalized Black and brown communities,” said Heather Warnken of the University of Baltimore School of Law.

The pardon follows Maryland legalizing adult cannabis use in 2022 and aims to provide relief from the lingering effects of prior criminalization as the state builds an equitable legal market.

Implementation Process

Over the next two weeks, the Maryland Judiciary will update the electronic dockets of all pardoned cases to reflect the governor’s action.  Individuals can then verify online or at courthouses whether their convictions were pardoned.

The state will also develop a process over the next 10 months to note the pardons on criminal record background checks.  However, the convictions will still appear on public records unless individuals pursue expungement separately.

No currently incarcerated individuals will be released as a result of the pardons.  Those eligible do not need to take any action to receive the pardon.

Governor Moore’s historic executive action represents a significant step in redressing the harms of cannabis prohibition in Maryland and across the nation. As more states legalize, advocates hope this pardon will inspire other governors to follow suit.

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