By Dalton Rosario
Following Baltimore city’s top prosecutor Marilyn Mosby pledging that her office will end prosecuting possession-related cannabis arrests last week, Maryland is now the latest state to officially have passed cannabis legalization in the forms of possession, purchasing, consuming and cultivating. Individuals can legally carry up to an ounce of dry herb or five concentrate cartridges and home-grow up to four plants per household. Cannabis sales from licensed retailers will be taxed at a modest six percent, with state tax revenues being implemented in programs ranging from substance abuse and DWI prevention to K-12 and reparations for communities disproportionally targeted by law enforcement during cannabis prohibition; including expungements of current and prior possession and cultivation convictions.
As stated by Olivia Naugle, the Marijuana Policy Project’s Legislative Coordinator, in regards to pro-cannabis legislation passing in Maryland, “[cannabis] can be conducted by licensed, taxpaying businesses rather than criminal enterprises. This legislation would improve public health and safety [and] also have the bonus of generating significant new tax revenue for the state.” Maryland is a prime example of the green pendulum sweeping our nation. 2019 has proven to be a year of state lawmakers lining up to file recreational adult use cannabis bills for the benefits of surplus from immediate tax revenues to be allocated and reinvested directly into state programs, while also providing a means of reparations for communities impacted most dearly from cannabis abuses during prohibition.
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.