No More Marijuana Arrest in Baltimore
Marijuana Possession Will No Longer be Subject to Prosecution in Baltimore
In 2014 the Governor of Maryland signed legislation that decriminalized possession of marijuana that was under 10 grams. Currently possession of 10 grams to 50 pounds of marijuana is counted as a misdemeanor and can be subject to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. If you’re caught with more than 50 pounds of marijuana in your possession, you can be subjected to a minimum prison sentence of five years in jail and a fine not to exceed $1,000.00.
None of that will matter now since Marilyn Mosby, the Baltimore State’s Attorney announced on January 19th that her office will no longer prosecute offenders for marijuana possession, regardless of how much marijuana they have.
Data on Marijuana Charges
According to Baltimore Fishbowl, from 2016-2017 there were 1,448 adults and 66 juveniles arrested by Baltimore Police for the possession of marijuana. The report also discovered that out of this number, 96% of those arrested during that time period were black.
Dana Vickers Shelley, executive director of the ACLU of Maryland, stated that blacks and whites in Baltimore have similar rates of marijuana usage. However, black people were arrested at a higher rate, not only in Baltimore but in every other county in Maryland as well.
Reasoning Behind This Move
Mosley stated that spending resources to lock up Baltimore residents for marijuana possession is a waste of time and money. She believes that time and money is better spent on violent crimes, emphasizing that keeping Baltimoreans safe should be top priority, and that locking up people for possessing weed is not a smart way to achieve that goal.
Traffickers will be prosecuted
The State Attorney also made it known that her office will continue to prosecute people who are distributing marijuana. She stated that there would have to be evidence of intent to sell. Merely possessing marijuana would not be enough.
Related Stories: New California Law Gives Previous Marijuana Offenders a Break
Long Lasting Negative Impacts of Marijuana Possession Arrests
Many people with prior arrests due to marijuana possession have a hard time securing jobs, seeking promotions, educational opportunities and other avenues that lead to economic prosperity.
Devonte Williams – El stated that his prior arrest for marijuana possession comes up during interviews with prospective employers. He also stated that interviewers make no effort to see if he was convicted of the charges before they make their decision.
Cyril Scovens also has a prior marijuana charge and despite having a bachelor’s degree and working on his masters, his arrest still comes up in interviews. Scoven’s charge dates back to 1985 when he was only 21 years old.
It’s easy to see why some critics believe that these cases are unfair, especially since marijuana usage is starting to become legal in different states across the U.S.
Retroactive Clearing of Records
Mosby stated that her office “Will begin to work on vacating an estimated 5,000 possession convictions dating back from 2011” according to reports from the Baltimore Sun.
Gary Tuggle, the police commissioner of Baltimore has made it known that he will continue to make marijuana possession arrests regardless of Mosley’s stance on refusing to prosecute those taken into custody. Tuggle stated that he will continue to do so until the law on marijuana possession is changed by the state legislature.
The commissioner believes that marijuana and violent crime are related. He also expressed that his commanders agree with him. His officers claim to witness first-hand how violent crime and marijuana are linked and the negative effects that it has on communities.
Baltimore County, State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger stands behind Tuggle and even referred to a double murder that was committed in Towson, Maryland last April where weed played a factor. He stated that over 100 pounds of marijuana was confiscated.
Mosby continues to stand firm on her word to not prosecute despite opposition from the commissioner. When asked about what the commissioner said, she replied that she would release them without charges.
Related Stories: Mexico Could Legalize Marijuana Under its New President
Advocates have applauded Mosby’s choice to not prosecute those guilty of marijuana possession. But there is another concern facing those who applaud Mosby’s decision.
It’s up to the prosecutor to determine what cases go through the court system and which ones don’t. This could mean that Baltimoreans could face prosecution for marijuana possession again after Mosby leaves office.
That’s why advocates believe that for citizens to be permanently protected, changes in the law need to be made. Once the law completely decriminalizes marijuana, there will be no debate on whether people will get arrested or if the prosecutor will file charges against them.
For now, the citizens of Baltimore are in a “sticky” situation. It’s good to know that you won’t be charged with marijuana possession if caught with a stash. On the other hand, getting arrested by the police is not something anyone wants to deal with.
Hopefully in the near future the prosecutor’s office, the police and the state legislators can come up with a comprehensive plan regarding marijuana possession that won’t waste tax payer’s money and law enforcements’ time on senseless catch and release methods.