Maryland Adds To The Millions Whose Marijuana Records Have Been Expunged

( – Maryland residents approved a referendum to legalize recreational marijuana in 2022. The state legislature soon followed up with a bill that would do just that, and Governor Wes Moore (D) signed it last year. Now, the governor is pardoning some people with marijuana convictions.

On June 17, Moore signed an executive order pardoning 175,000 Marylanders who were convicted for low-level crimes related to marijuana possession. Those offenses include some convictions for misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of cannabis. The convictions won’t be erased from their criminal records.

Moore told NPR the pardons would help thousands of people who were previously facing barriers when they wanted to get a job, go to school, and even buy a home. Advocates applauded the governor’s decision but some said the pardons didn’t go far enough.

Moore isn’t the only governor to pardon marijuana convictions. Colleen Chien, a University of California, Berkeley School of Law professor, said the people who received the pardons will still have a record. She explained that sometimes, even having it show up in a background check, whether there is a conviction or pardon, is what matters. She said that if Moore really wants to help people, he should work with lawmakers to “turn it from a pardon to some sort of shielding, a sealing, or an expungement.”

President Joe Biden issued similar pardons for misdemeanor marijuana convictions in 2022. However, his action only impacted people who were convicted of federal crimes. Governors in Nevada, Massachusetts, and Oregon have also granted low-level offenders pardons. Mayors also have the power to issue similar orders and have done so in Kansas City, Missouri, and Birmingham, Alabama.

As of April 2024, 24 states have legalized recreational marijuana. The issue is also going to be on the ballot as a constitutional amendment in Florida in November, but it will need 60% of the vote to win. The federal government is currently weighing whether to reschedule the drug.

Copyright 2024,