But Reform Efforts Aren’t Over
Maryland has been getting serious about reforms over the last few years, and is now one of the first five states to implement meaningful, widespread changes to marijuana policies and laws. B
So where are we at? What’s the progress being made in Maryland? What is left to be done? What can we do?
Things Are Looking Better
Okay, let’s take a look at the ways Maryland has improved on all things weed.
In 2010 Maryland was like the worst place to be if you were specifically black and wanted to smoke (but pretty safe for white Marylanders).
But since 2014 recreational marijuana has been decriminalized and since 2016 smoking it in public gets you a fine, akin to a hefty traffic ticket. Relatively reasonable.
You may have heard of State Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s decision not to prosecute ANY marijuana possession cases? Maryland has also made it easier for those with past marijuana convictions to get their records sealed or expunged.
Reform is Not Over
We all know that POC are arrested at disproportionately high rates for marijuana possession, even though we have data that suggests white and black people smoke at about the same rates. In Maryland racial bias still continues in marijuana-related arrests and fines. While there is no official lobby in Maryland representing an overhaul in policing methods and policies, you can still get involved with these organizations and bring up these issues.
The Maryland Cannabis Policy Coalition led the fight for decriminalization in the first place. It’s worth taking time to check out their policies to see what you support and where the emphasis is on the lobbying front.
Check out NORML, which stands for the National Organization of the Reform of Marijuana Laws. They are pushing for policy reform in many areas, including ensuring the expungement of criminal records and the immediate release of prisoners serving sentences for marijuana offenses (accurate stats how many people are currently incarcerated for marijuana possession in Maryland are really difficult to find, by the way).
Also check out the ACLU, who published a brilliant report on how Maryland could save over a billion dollars by approaching its justice system differently. They show how by 2025 Maryland could incarcerate 2,091 fewer people and save $112,545,355 by no longer incarcerating people for drug possession and reducing sentences for illegal distribution.
What Can You Do?
As reefer goes mainstream we will see more federal and state lawmakers rethink the laws and release those unfairly imprisoned. You can reach out to your local representative and let them know where you stand on different issues and especially let them know you support the immediate release of all prisoners incarcerated for only marijuana-related crimes.
If you can, extend economic opportunities to people who have been imprisoned, and truly see them as human beings. America has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world. With a few bad breaks- that could have been you.