The state’s attorney in Baltimore will no longer prosecute any marijuana possession cases, regardless of the quantity of the drug or an individual’s prior criminal record, authorities announced Tuesday.
Marilyn Mosby, the city’s top prosecutor, said cannabis possession cases have no public safety value, erode public trust in law enforcement, and intensify existing racial disparities in the criminal justice system since arrests disproportionately occur in communities of color.
Mosby’s office will still go after dealers and traffickers by prosecuting marijuana distribution cases. But officials said the money and energy prosecuting any type of simple possession case could now be redirected to address more significant crimes in a U.S. city grappling with chronically high violent crime rates and no shortage of dangerous drug syndicates.
“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,” she said.
Meanwhile, her office will seek to vacate some 5,000 marijuana possession convictions stretching back to 2011. She described jailing people for marijuana possession as a “vast and ongoing moral failure” even as the drug remains illegal in the state.
“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,” she said.
Mosby’s decision puts her at odds with the city’s police force.
In a brief Tuesday statement, Baltimore’s acting Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle stressed that officers “will continue to make arrests for illegal marijuana possession unless and until the state legislature changes the law regarding marijuana possession.”
When asked what she would do if police presented her with a cannabis possession arrest in coming days, Mosby didn’t mince words: “We will release them without charges.”