BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A major policy decision from the Baltimore City State’s Attorney Tuesday was made Tuesday as Marilyn Mosby said that her office will no longer prosecute cases of marijuana possession.
The state’s attorney calls it a new day in Baltimore.
“When I asked myself if the enforcement and prosecution of marijuana possession was making our city safer, the answer is emphatically ‘no.’” said Mosby. “There is no public safety value in prosecuting marijuana possession.”
Mosby made the announcement at the Center for Urban Families in west Baltimore. She was joined by her staff and advocates for marijuana law reform.
“This is really exciting news,” said Olivia Naugle, director of the Marijuana Policy Project. “We applaud state’s attorney Mosby for making this decision. It’s one that’s fair and one that’s just and we hope that the rest of the state of Maryland will follow the state’s attorney’s lead.”
Mosby filed a court motion Tuesday morning, seeking to vacate nearly 5,000 marijuana-related convictions dating back to 2011.
The convictions came in circuit court and district court.
“Even though white and black residents use marijuana at roughly the same rate, marijuana laws have been, and continue to be, disproportionately enforced against people of color in the city,” said Mosby. “Which is the basis for our motion to vacate the convictions of nearly 5,000 individuals who have been collaterally impacted, socially, economically, and politically debilitated by the discriminatory enforcement of these marijuana laws.”
The Maryland ACLU said that it supported Mosby’s decision.
“This is a groundbreaking decision in the city where people will no longer be jailed or prosecuted for possession of marijuana,” said executive director of the Maryland ACLU, Dana Vickers Shelly.
Mosby is calling the policy a monumental shift- saying prosecuting these cases is costly and disproportionately impacts communities of color.
“For far too long, we have sat back and watched certain communities and families destroyed by failed policies of the so-called ‘war on drugs’,” Mosby said.
“That’s great, that’s great, let those people off the hook,” said Christian Squire, a Baltimore resident.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle issued a statement following the announcement regarding illegal possession of marijuana.
“Baltimore Police will continue to make arrests for illegal marijuana possession unless and until the state legislature changes the law regarding marijuana possession,”
The motion seeking to vacate the marijuana-related convictions is expected to be heard within a month.
Jodi Forbes, another Baltimore resident, says it calls into question the State’s use of resources.
“What’s the point in arresting them but not prosecuting them? Now you’re just creating a hardship on people who are probably already are in a difficult position financially, socially economically,” Forbes said.
Mayor Catherine Pugh also reacted to the announcement, saying she was supportive of what Mosby was attempting to address, but also urged her legislative colleagues to look carefully at the issue.
I am supportive of what State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby is attempting to address, namely the unnecessary criminalization of those who possess marijuana merely for personal use. But at the same time, we also need to understand that those who deal illegal substances fuel criminality in our neighborhoods which leads to violence. We cannot, nor will we, let-up in our efforts to eliminate violent crime at its source. I want to urge our legislative colleagues to look carefully at these issues and at best practices underway elsewhere, in collaboration with the State’s Attorney and law enforcement leadership to determine an approach that is unified, consistent in its application and in the best interests of our communities,”
Public safety expert Rob Wienhold said the changes could lead to chaos and confusion.
“Without a unified front from the criminal justice system from law enforcement to prosecutors to judiciary to probation, it creates the perception of dysfunction and that’s not healthy for the street,” Wienhold said.
Mosby said her office will still go after dealers and drug traffickers by prosecuting distribution cases where there is evidence that marijuana is being sold.