Can Baltimore Be the Nation's Model for Ending Cannabis Prosecution?
By Dalton Rosario
Starting this week in Baltimore all cannabis offenses short of federal possession with intent to distribute will be charged as a misdemeanor. And as restitutions are concerned, arrest rates as far back as 2011 will be given expungement, and all current cases will be dropped and dismissed into diversion programs. Top prosecutor Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore State’s Attorney said recently, “No one who is serious about public safety can honestly say that spending our resources to jail people for marijuana is a smart way to use our limited time and money.”
The motivation behind this response is recurrent from the war on drugs’ explicit history of ethnic and racial segregation and how this has affected countless communities disproportionally for decades. In Baltimore, an analysis of police data released by the Baltimore Fishbowl claims that out of the 1,514 documented cannabis-related possession cases between 2015 and 2017, 96% of these charges involved African Americans.
Statistics like this project the harsh, simple truth fueling the war on drugs for the past decade; and more purposefully, it provides a substantial framework for arranging cannabis reformation in immediate fashion. If these wrongs can be corrected in Maryland, then we can all model Baltimore's legislation as a prototype for lawmakers nationwide. Maryland homes half the population of nearby states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, yet ranks seventh highest in the country for statewide possession-related cannabis arrests. A grotesque 90% of cannabis arrests are possession based, accounting for half of all drug arrests within the state. But not anymore in the city of Baltimore, where 30% of the population was targeted for 90% of cannabis crimes.