By J. K. Schmid, Special to the AFRO
Baltimore City State’s Attorney announced her office will no longer be prosecuting marijuana possession cases, Tuesday.
“We need to get serious about prioritizing what actually makes us safe,” said Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, in a January 29 press release. “No one who is serious about public safety can honestly say that spending resources to jail people for marijuana use is a smart way to use our limited time and money.”
The office will still continue to prosecute marijuana distribution, but possession-regardless of weight-will not longer be considered evidence of intent to distribute. Those persons with first-time convictions for distribution will all be referred to diversion, the release said.
Looking forward and backward, the office announced that it will seek to vacate the approximately 5,000 convictions for possession since 2011.
“Jailing people for marijuana possession is a vast and ongoing moral failure,” Mosby said avia the same release. “Communities are still sentenced under these unjust policies, still paying a price for behavior that is already legal for millions of Americans. That’s why I’m moving to vacate these cases.”
The release went on to explain how these possessions citations vastly skew towards Baltimore’s Black and poor communities. For example, Baltimore 95 percent Black Western District has been issued 42 percent of the entire city’s total citations, despite a proportionate prevalence of marijuana use by both Blacks and Whites.
“The statistics are damning when it comes to the disproportionate impact that the ‘War on Drugs’ has had on communities of color,” Mosby said in the release. “I pledged to institute change and I refuse to stand by and be a facilitator of injustice and inequity when it is clear that we can be so much smarter and do so much more on behalf of the people we serve.”
While expected to have an immediate impact on the community itself, the ultimate hope is that this new policy will free up the resources so that Baltimore Police officers can make inroads on the record-high and climbing Baltimore murder rate. Despite a declining population, the city continues to average almost one killing per day.
““Law enforcement pays a steep cost in the form of public trust when we spend resources on things like marijuana and simultaneously fail to solve and successfully prosecute homicides,” Mosby said. “Ask any mother who has lost a son to gun violence whether she wants us to spend more time solving and prosecuting her son’s killer or to spend time on marijuana possession. It’s not a close question.”