What People Are Saying About Governor Moore’s Historic Executive Order Pardoning 175,000 Maryland Cannabis Convictions

Published: 6/20/2024

ANNAPOLIS, MD — On Monday, Governor Wes Moore signed a historic executive order pardoning 175,000 Maryland convictions related to the possession of cannabis, including convictions for misdemeanor possession of cannabis and certain convictions for misdemeanor possession of drug paraphernalia. The order represents the largest pardon for misdemeanor cannabis possession charges for any state in the country and the inclusion of paraphernalia makes Maryland the first state to take such action. 

Here is what elected officials, community leaders, criminal justice and cannabis advocates are saying about Governor Moore’s historic announcement:

“For too long, Black Americans have been disproportionately incarcerated for marijuana possession which affects their ability to become employed and build generational wealth,” said U.S. Senator Ben Cardin. “I support Governor Moore’s efforts to make our criminal justice system fairer, and address disparities and systemic challenges in our drug policy.”

“The criminalization of recreational marijuana use has for decades harmed our nation – it wastes taxpayer dollars, hurts our economy, and contributes to the scandal of mass incarceration for nonviolent offenses,” said U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen. “I appreciate Governor Moore taking this step to right those wrongs, paving the way for a brighter, more equitable future for thousands of Marylanders.”

“Governor Moore’s Executive Order is a victory for justice and equal opportunity,” said Congressman Steny Hoyer (MD-05). “Denying Marylanders with low-level marijuana possession charges — a disproportionate number of whom are African American — from full participation in civil society is inconsistent with our state’s democratic decision to fully legalize cannabis sales. As Majority Leader, I brought the MORE Act to the House Floor twice to decriminalize cannabis at the federal level. While Republicans prevented us from enacting this into law, I’m proud to see that under Governor Moore’s leadership, our state is once again leading the nation in creating a better, stronger, and fairer America.”

“Marylanders rightly determined that cannabis use is a matter of personal choice and public health – not a crime,” said Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-02). “I applaud Governor Moore for pardoning these non-violent and now non-criminal convictions, which disproportionately affect people of color. As usual, Maryland is leading the nation toward smarter, fairer cannabis policies in our country.”

“By pardoning Marylanders with cannabis-related convictions, Governor Moore is helping reduce barriers to housing, employment, education and more, especially for communities of color that have been disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of our cannabis laws,” said Congressman John Sarbanes (MD-03). “This action is a significant step toward a more just and equitable Maryland.”

“The State of Maryland legalizing the use and possession of cannabis was a big step in the right direction as society changes and evolves over time. As we know, past convictions involving even the smallest amount of marijuana can impact a person’s ability to secure employment, maintain housing, or even obtain government assistance,” said Congressman Kweisi Mfume (MD-07). “It is proper, fitting, and overdue to pardon those whose lives were negatively impacted for using a substance that is now decriminalized and I commend Governor Moore for doing just that with this historic executive order.”

“Governor Moore makes history pardoning tens of thousands of Marylanders saddled with marijuana-related convictions. Our Governor strikes a blow for educational and job opportunity, making Maryland a shining example of reform for our nation,” said Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08).

“I commend Governor Moore’s action to pardon Marylanders with cannabis convictions. This is not just about reforming our country’s antiquated drug policy, it’s also about correcting a systemic injustice that disproportionately impacts communities of color,” said Congressman David Trone (MD-06). “This brings us one step closer to creating a criminal justice system that works for all Americans.”

“Thank you, Governor Moore for your leadership and taking this bold step to remove societal barriers for Black and Brown people who are disproportionately affected by cannabis convictions,” said Congressman Glenn Ivey (MD-04). “317,793 Americans are arrested annually for possession of marijuana.”

“Governor Moore’s leadership in issuing a historic number of pardons reflects his commitment to equity in Maryland and our mutual goal of correcting past injustices. A criminal conviction has serious long-term impacts, such as housing and employment barriers, and Black Marylanders disproportionately bear this burden,” said Maryland Legislative Black Caucus Chair Jheanelle Wilkins. These pardons help lift barriers to ensure that previously convicted Marylanders can move forward with their full lives and opportunities.”

“I believe in second chances and redemption and this will give so many of our citizens a second chance to improve their lives for themselves and their families by removing barriers to background checks for employment, housing, and education,” said State Senator Johnny Ray Salling (R-06). “This is a historic moment for our state and I hope this will set a trend for the rest of our country. Thank you, Governor Moore, for your continued efforts to make Maryland a great state to live.”

“The mass pardon by Governor Moore cuts this Gordian knot. The effect of this pardon will be to free many Marylanders from convictions which have stood in their way of obtaining jobs, of qualifying for government licenses and of otherwise living their lives without the dark clouds of these convictions hanging over their heads,” said State Senator Chris West (R-42). “I applaud Governor Moore for taking this initiative. Certainly, it is the right thing to do, at the right time and for the right reasons. Thousands of Maryland citizens will benefit from today’s pardon and will no longer live under a shadow.”

“I applaud Governor Moore’s executive order to pardon Marylanders previously convicted of misdemeanor possession of marijuana and paraphernalia. Like the governor and attorney general, I know and have seen the significant hardships these convictions impose on individuals and communities. As an attorney, I regularly represented pro bono clients in expungement matters and saw the toll that the conviction placed on them and their ability to access basic needs, like housing and jobs,” said Comptroller Brooke E. Lierman. “The governor’s action demonstrates a keen understanding not only of the moral imperative in righting decades of wrong-headed policies but also the economic imperative. Low-level convictions too often result in a lifetime of negative consequences. As our agency’s State of the Economy report explained, we must do all we can to bring more people into the workforce. I know that the Marylanders now freed from the burden of a past conviction will be able to compete for and secure better jobs and more stable housing that will allow them to contribute more to their families, communities, and our state economy.”

“Pardons for those previously convicted of cannabis possession are an important component of redressing racial disparities and correcting injustices in the criminal legal system. Prior to the reforms legalizing cannabis possession, individuals identified as Black were twice as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as compared to their proportion of the State’s population,” said Maryland Public Defender Natasha M. Dartigue, Esq. “By pardoning individuals who were unfairly treated by the criminal legal system, the government acknowledges harms of an unjust system, takes a positive step to rectifying errors and removes barriers to employment, housing and other basic needs of those plagued with a criminal history. The Maryland Office of the Public Defender applauds Governor Moore in his efforts to provide pathways to redemption to all Marylanders, despite their circumstances, and in so doing promotes forgiveness and reconciliation.” 

“The legacy that the war on drugs has had on our city of Baltimore – and many places around the country like it – is still visceral and tangible. We still see and feel the wounds every day in the lives, families, and communities that were disrupted and destroyed. Today’s action to pardon these more than 175,000 convictions is a step towards healing. For those receiving the pardons – which includes thousands upon thousands of Baltimoreans – it will be life changing,” said Baltimore City Mayor Brandon M. Scott. "I want to thank and commend Governor Moore for his commitment, compassion, and love for the people who have been so impacted by this history. This action, and our work together to overcome the dark legacy of our predecessors, will lay the foundation for a better, safer future for all of our residents.”

“Over ten years before I went through the Center for Urban Families’ STRIVE program and got my college degree, I was convicted of two minor cannabis possession charges. The first was when I was still in high school and the second was after I had dropped out of college and was trying to figure my life out. A year or two after the second charge I was applying to jobs at lots of different places. One company hired me and after I made it through the interview process, finished orientation, and started my second day, I was fired because I didn’t pass the background check. The only thing on my background was the two cannabis possession charges, and so that’s the only reason I was fired,” said pardon recipient Shiloh Jordan. “Still needing work and wanting to get on a better track, I enrolled in STRIVE at CFUF. The program helped change my life and since then I’ve graduated college from Bowie State, where I played collegiate sports, lived all around the country, and am lucky and proud to have gotten a chance to work as an outreach coordinator at the Center. I love getting to help connect people to the program that was so important in my life and seeing them make progress. Just because you smoked marijuana, doesn’t mean you’re irresponsible, or that you can’t work, or that you have nothing going on. I’m glad the governor is removing another barrier to work for the people I meet every day.” 

'When I was in my early 20s, I got a group of charges that included simple possession of marijuana. 30 years later, I’m in a completely different place than I was. I’m an HVAC Field Supervisor at one of the largest mechanical companies in the DMV area. The possession charge limits my income because it prevents me from working on more lucrative government contracts,” said pardon recipient Derek Liggins. “Criminal records are one of the main barriers to the Black community gaining wealth. I am very happy to see the progress in cannabis pardons; because we now see marijuana dispensaries on every corner, it doesn’t make sense that cannabis possession charges are still held against people.

“The NAACP has long known that the War on Drugs was a war on Black America. As we move away from the regressive policies of the past, it's crucial that our leaders assist in building new futures for those impacted. For decades, communities of color have been torn down by the hands of injustice and imprisoned at disproportionate rates due to discriminatory policies,” said NAACP President and Chief Executive Officer Derrick Johnson. “Today is a new day. The NAACP is proud to stand alongside the Moore Administration in celebrating this victory for progress. We will continue to advocate for, and applaud all policy reforms that repair injustices inflicted on our community. As we celebrate today, we look toward tomorrow, pushing for similar policies across the nation. Together, we will mold a future that shines a light over the darkness of our nation's past."

"Governor Moore has established himself as a leader in both equitable justice and economic development. It is a welcome acknowledgment of the racial disparity in prosecutions and the long-lasting social and economic damage that the disparity has caused," said National Urban League President and Chief Executive Officer Marc H. Morial. "We encourage elected officials across the country to follow Gov. Moore's example in righting historical wrongs, and clearing a path for employment, education, housing, and for those who have been the victims of a failed and discriminatory policy of prohibition."

"It has been nearly a year since Maryland passed full cannabis legalization, and at the same time that some are poised to profit off of this burgeoning industry, millions more remain burdened by the collateral consequences of a cannabis conviction,” said Last Prisoner Project Executive Director Sarah Gersten. “This historic announcement is a crucial step in beginning to right the wrongs of our failed approach to marijuana policy."

“This official recognition of forgiveness is an important step in addressing the harms of the War on Drugs,” said Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service Workforce Development Manager Chris Sweeney. “With Governor Moore’s pardon, Marylanders can be proud to live in a state that is leaving the stigma of cannabis use in the past.”

"I applaud Governor Moore's commitment to pardoning these cannabis offenses and taking another important step in reducing the racial, social, and economic inequities they have caused. For too long, low-level cannabis offenses have limited Maryland residents' access to employment, housing, and educational opportunities, especially for those who are Black and Brown,” said Center for Urban Families Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer Joe Jones Jr. “Connecting Baltimoreans to the workforce is a key component of the Center for Urban Families’ mission to strengthen urban communities. Governor Moore’s pardon will remove a significant structural barrier, enhancing our ability to help those we serve to gain and maintain employment." 

“Our legal system is ever evolving, and the pardons announced demonstrate Governor Moore’s commitment to ensuring Marylanders have a fair opportunity to build a better future for themselves and their families,” said The Clean Slate Initiative Chief Executive Officer Sheena Meade. “This action and the state’s investment in judicial software procurement process signal that Maryland is well positioned to build on these achievements in the coming years. We look forward to working with lawmakers, state agencies, and community stakeholders to do just that.”