Maryland Governor Wes Moore Pardons 175,000 Cannabis-Related Convictions in Historic Executive Order

Maryland Governor Wes Moore signed a historic executive order on Monday, which saw over 175,000 convictions for cannabis-related charges pardoned in the state. The pardon is a landmark moment in the nation’s cannabis reform history, standing as the largest state pardon to date, according to the Moore-Miller Administration. 

The pardons included over 150,000 misdemeanor convictions for simple cannabis possession and an additional 18,000 low-level offenses for use and possession of drug paraphernalia relating to cannabis. With Moore’s executive order, Maryland makes history as the first in the nation to take action on pardoning low-level convictions centering on paraphernalia for cannabis. 

“We believe legalization of cannabis must go hand-in-hand with pardons, and Maryland’s going to lead by example,” the governor said of the order, which comes over a year after the state decriminalized recreational cannabis for Marylanders over 21 years old in 2023. 

While the pardon won’t lead to the release of incarcerated individuals, Moore hopes that it will alleviate some of the barriers for Marylanders who face restricted access to housing, employment and educational opportunities as a result of their convictions. It’s the first step, his legislation claims, toward meaningful progress in addressing the racial wealth gap. 

“We knew we had to be bold in this moment because we’ve studied our history,” Governor Moore said. “Decades of misguided policies have been intentionally deployed to hold back our entire communities, especially communities of color — and have contributed to mass incarceration, limited access to jobs and housing, and an 8-to-1 racial wealth gap in my state alone.” 

While the pardons come as a win for all Marylanders, data shows that Black Marylanders are more likely to be faced with the barriers that come with these convictions on their records. As it stands, nearly 25% of the convictions being pardoned stem from individuals who live in Baltimore City, which is majority Black. While celebrating this first step, Moore has made it clear that more work is on the horizon to create equal opportunities and brighter futures for Black and Brown Marylanders. 

Updated: June 19, 2024 — 9:02 am