By Rick Ritter

BALTIMORE (WJZ)–For decades, rules against the use of marijuana have been a barrier for police applicants in Baltimore, but the State of Maryland could soon make major changes.

It’s been labeled a major hurdle.

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“I think it’s been a barrier for way too long for so many of our applicants,” said Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis.

Having a history with the use of marijuana makes it a struggle to become a police officer in Maryland.

Davis calls it a “death sentence”.

Per Maryland rules if you’ve smoked marijuana more than 20 times in your life you’re disqualified from becoming an officer. If you smoked more than 5 times since you’ve turned 21, same deal.

Commissioner Davis and the Police Training and Standards Commission now want the state to do away with the restriction, barring only those recruits who have used the drug in the last three years.

Davis tells WJZ that good candidates with a history of marijuana is the number one disqualifier in Baltimore.

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“We can send people to Johns Hopkins to become a doctor, we can send people to FBI, but you can’t become a police officer in Maryland,” said Davis.

Nationwide, the laws against marijuana continued to be loosened. The commissioner says it only makes sense to do the same for potential officers.

“I think it lends room to hire more officers who live in the city,” said community activist Ericka Alston. “We’re talking about mistakes, we’re not talking about a serious or chronic drug user, we’re talking about someone who admitted to using marijuana in the past.”

The commissioner says it’s not lowering standards, instead, it’s reflecting other federal and state law enforcement agencies across the country.

“I want people with life experiences that put them in a position to be a compassionate and empathetic police officer,” Davis said.

The commissioner’s recommendation will go before the public for comment. Davis says with the support they’ve had so far he’s hopeful the rule will changed by spring or summer of next year.

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The recommendation must pass a legal review and still has to be approved by top state officials before it can become official.

Rick Ritter