Recently, there has been a growing trend toward supporting the legalization of marijuana in the United States. With the recognition of its benefits, more states in the US are moving towards legalizing it. This shift in acceptance and legality could lead to uncertainties. One pressing concern is how individuals with marijuana-related convictions will be affected in states where it has been legalized.

Many have been concerned if those previously convicted will have to face long-term consequences for a minor conviction that has now been drastically re-evaluated.  Maryland has decided to make a difference and become the most recent state to pardon numerous marijuana convictions.

Maryland Governor Wes Moore has signed an official order to pardon more than 175,000 marijuana convictions. The order was signed in Annapolis, Maryland, with Anthony Brown, the state Attorney General, present as well. According to the governor’s office’s official statements in a press call on that same Monday morning, of the 175,000 convictions being nullified, over 100,000 incarcerated individuals will be directly affected by the pardons

Of those 175,000 individual charges, over 150,000 of the pardons will be for simple misdemeanor convictions for possession of cannabis. In this changing landscape where marijuana possession is often not only legal but also widely recognized to have medical benefits for many users, this is a step many states may choose to make. Over 18,000 of the 175,000 pardons are for misdemeanor convictions for use or possession with intent to use, meaning that those individuals were caught either smoking the cannabis or preparing to.

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This executive order makes Maryland the first state in the country to commit to such claims and actually enact mass pardons on marijuana-related convictions. It further continues Maryland and Governor Wes Moore’s unprecedented involvement in resolving these issues. In 2023, Maryland and Moore legalized the recreational use of marijuana in conjunction with the passage of a constitutional amendment during the 2022 legislative season.

With regard to his personal stance on these issues, Moore said, “We cannot celebrate the benefits of legalization if we do not address the consequences of criminalization. So I want to be clear: When it comes to cannabis, rolling out one of the best and most equitable legal markets in the country is incredibly important. But that rollout must go hand in hand with pardoning past conduct, and Maryland is going to lead by example.”

According to Moore and his office, this is all in an effort to promote “social equity” and ensure “the fair and equitable administration of justice. Because the use and possession of cannabis is no longer illegal in the state, Marylanders should not continue to face barriers to housing, employment, or educational opportunities based on convictions for conduct that is no longer illegal.”

With the signing of this executive order, the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services in Maryland has begun implementing a process that will ultimately indicate a pardon on each individual’s criminal record. According to Moore’s office, this could take up to ten months to fully complete, but the change is on its way.