Baltimore's top prosecutor ceases prosecution for the possession of cannabis

Published Feb 13, 2019 03:09 p.m. ET

Baltimore’s state attorney Marilyn Mosby made an official announcement on Tuesday that may lead the way to some monumental changes in Baltimore’s current justice system and how the laws surrounding marijuana possession will be enforced going forward. As of Tuesday, 29, 2019, her office will no longer prosecute anyone who is charged with marijuana possession regardless of the amount they have on them. She also made clear that the State’s office will continue to prosecuteanyone facing production or intent to sell charges, but only if there has been an admittance or substantial proof of their intention to sell. Marilyn has also filed a writ of form notice with both the Circuit and District courts to vacate over 1050 convictions that are currently within Circuit and 3778 that are sitting with the District. Many of which go back as far as 2011.

Progressive Prosecutors

Many of the United States’ top prosecutors are more progressive including Philadelphia, Houston, Jersey City, Kansas City, Norfolk, Virginia, Brooklyn, Albany, Manhattan, St. Louis, and Chicago. All of which have promised to either cease the prosecution of marijuana possession-relatedcharges just like Marilyn or to in the very least downgrade any charges being handed out to offenders. This movement shows a shift in criminal justice reform that may help to pave the way to the legalization of marijuana in the United States.

Why

Marilyn made her decision based many factors, but the most significant that she points out most often to the public is the degree of disparities amongst the criminal charges for marijuana possession that her office worked with. She found that the number of those from minority backgrounds were quite obviously targeted, with well over 70% of all weed related charges involving African Americans or some other minority. Mosby also found that officers were much more likely to charge an individual that wasn’t white with little to no evidence to back those charges. Though these discrepancies happened due to regulation that was brought forward before she took the position, she has pledged to fight towards the legalization of marijuana possession which would help to free up precious judicial resources and level the playing field a little bit for those who have found themselves targeted.  

Advocates

Many advocates for the legalization of marijuana in the United States are applauding these prosecutors’ decisions to hand out lighter sentences, but many are also quick to point out a massive flaw in the current judicial system, and that is that Prosecutors have too much power in the first place. Unfortunately, prosecutors cannot change the laws surrounding marijuana possession themselves; they can only choose not to enforce the law. The second problem is that if any of these progressive prosecutors were to be replaced their replacement could have an entirely different point of view which could lead to a radical change to the enforcement of weed-related laws overnight.

Police Enforcement

Since Baltimore’s top prosecutor Marilyn Mosby made her announced to the public on Tuesday, much of the public has been left with questions about how this decision will affect the police enforcement of marijuana possession laws. On January 29 2019 Baltimore’s acting police chief gave a statement to the public where he announced that for the Baltimore Police Department things will be business as usual for them as far as police enforcement of marijuana possession laws which means they will continue to make arrests and lay charges until or unless Maryland’s current Legislature decides to make the possession of cannabis legal. So far there has been signed legislation by Maryland’s governor from 2014 which slightly lifted the limit that a person could possess for personal use, but so far anything above a small amount is illegal in the region.

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