In a move crafted by State Attorney Marilyn Mosby, the city of Baltimore, Maryland, will discontinue the prosecution of marijuana possession and request to vacate approximately 5,000 marijuana convictions, CNN reported.
“For far too long, we have sat back and watched idly as communities and families are literally destroyed by the failed policies of the war on drugs,” Mosby told NBC News. “In Baltimore, the majority of citations, even after decriminalization, are issued to Black people.”
Research gathered by the American Civil Liberties Union supports Mosby’s reasoning, illustrating how Black people are nearly four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana-related causes than their white counterparts despite similar usage.
In a statement released by Mosby’s office, the attorney hopes to enact "common sense" changes to existing marijuana policies, clarifying that the distribution of marijuana will continue to be prosecuted in the event there is evidence of intent to distribute.
Mosby believes Baltimore's financial resources should be steered away from jailing citizens for marijuana possession and toward prosecuting harsher crimes such as homicide, citing the city's average of one killing per day.
Mosby’s new ideas do not come without hesitation or opposition. Some, including Interim Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle, refuse to stand with the reform, saying he would not direct officers to stop arrests.
“Without the police, this is just political theatre," Tuggle said.
Further concerns center around the ramifications of decriminalizing the drug and what a lack of restriction could mean for the public.
“Most heroin addicts started their drug use with marijuana,” former leader of Baltimore County’s Office of Substance Abuse Mike Gimbel said. “It’s a gateway drug. For her to make a blanket statement that we’re not worried about how much they had, or we don’t care if they have a criminal history – that’s absolutely irresponsible.”
Mayor Catherine Pugh sits in the middle of both sides of the debate, standing behind Mosby’s intention to rid Baltimore of the “unnecessary criminalization of those who possess marijuana merely for personal use” while maintaining the belief that criminalization may also aid in the lessening of crime in the area.
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