The city of Baltimore is moving to decriminalize marijuana possession and will take steps to vacate nearly 5,000 marijuana-related convictions, according to State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby.
Mosby said prosecuting these cases didn’t make the city safer and it tended to target communities of color, in her Tuesday announcement morning.
“When I ask myself, is the enforcement and prosecution of marijuana possession making us safer as a city? The answer is emphatically no,” Mosby said in a press conference. “There is no public safety value in prosecuting marijuana possession. Furthermore, there is no link between marijuana possession and violent crime, as is illustrated by more than half of the states in this nation that have legalized marijuana in some form, and yet violent crime has not risen.”
Data collected by publication Baltimore Fishbowl found between 2015 through 2017, 96 percent of marijuana possession arrests were black individuals.
Those previously charged with felony distribution of marijuana will instead be referred to a diversion program with the goal of letting past offenders enter the job market and eventually erasing the conviction from their records. The amount of marijuana found and a person’s prior criminal record will not play a role in a decision to prosecute, but Mosby clarified that the new policy does not apply to cases where a defendant faces multiple charges other than marijuana possession.
Mosby said resources used to prosecute marijuana cases can now be diverted to larger issues, including gun violence.
“Ask any mother who has lost a son to gun violence whether she wants us to spend more time solving and prosecuting her son’s killer or to spend time on marijuana possession,” Mosby said. “It’s not a close question.”