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Governor Wes Moore’s Historic Prisoner Pardon for Black Communities Unfairly Affected by Marijuana Laws (video)

Governor Wes Moore’s Historic Pardon: A Step Toward Justice and Equity

On a landmark day for Maryland and the nation, Governor Wes Moore announced the largest state-level pardon in U.S. history, pardoning over 175,000 marijuana convictions. This significant move, which took place on the East Coast at 10 AM, marks a critical step in addressing the long-standing racial disparities in cannabis enforcement.

Governor Moore, emphasizing the seriousness of this responsibility, declared, “This morning, with deep pride, I will pardon over 175,000 convictions.” This announcement was met with applause, symbolizing a collective sigh of relief and a step toward justice for many Marylanders.

Addressing Past Racist Injustices

The War on Drugs has disproportionately affected Black communities. Despite similar cannabis usage rates across racial groups, Black Marylanders were historically three times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than their white counterparts. Governor Moore highlighted that nearly half of all drug arrests in Maryland during the early 2000s were for cannabis, a stark reminder of the targeted enforcement practices that have plagued these communities.

The governor acknowledged the enduring consequences of these convictions, stating, “Having a conviction on your record means a harder time with everything—from housing to employment to education.” The pardon aims to erase these records, offering a chance for those affected to move forward without the heavy burden of past convictions.

Building an Equitable Future

Governor Moore’s administration has taken significant steps to ensure that Maryland’s cannabis market rollout is one of the most equitable in the country. In March, all 174 licenses for adult-use cannabis were awarded exclusively to social equity applicants, marking a first in the nation. This approach aims to rectify some of the harms caused by previous cannabis prohibition policies.

However, Moore stressed that legalization alone is not enough. “We cannot celebrate the benefits of legalization if we do not address the consequences of criminalization,” he asserted. The pardons are part of a broader strategy to rebuild trust in marginalized communities and provide economic and social mobility opportunities for those who have been adversely affected by past cannabis laws.

The Impact of the Pardons

The pardons will directly impact tens of thousands of Marylanders, particularly those with misdemeanor possession of cannabis and certain drug paraphernalia convictions. By clearing these records, individuals can more easily secure employment, access housing, and pursue education, helping to dismantle the systemic barriers that have long restricted their opportunities.

This action is also a call to other states to follow suit. By setting a precedent, Maryland’s sweeping pardon serves as a powerful example of how state-level leadership can promote justice and equity, addressing the historical wrongs of the War on Drugs.

A Collective Effort

Governor Moore acknowledged the extraordinary partnership and efforts of lawmakers, leaders, and advocates in making this historic pardon possible. Notable contributions came from Attorney General Anthony Brown and organizations like the Last Prisoner Project, highlighting the collaborative effort needed to bring about such transformative change.

As Maryland leads by example, Governor Moore’s bold actions underscore the importance of intentional policymaking in reversing the harms of the past and building a brighter, more equitable future. This historic pardon is not just a legal adjustment but a profound commitment to justice, equality, and the reevaluation of past wrongs, offering hope and tangible progress for marginalized communities.

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