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The governor of Maryland (USA) announces a pardon for more than 175,000 convicted of minor marijuana crimes

The governor of the US state of Maryland, Wes Moore, has announced that this Monday he will grant a mass pardon that will affect more than 175,000 people convicted of minor marijuana-related crimes, one of the broadest acts of clemency in the country in relation to a widely used recreational drug.

Moore, of the Democratic Party, has asserted in an interview with the newspaper ‘The Washington Post’ that it is a “step to heal decades of social and economic injustice that has disproportionately affected” racialized people. Thus, he has insisted that criminal records have been used to deny housing, employment and education rights, holding convicts and their families after they have served their sentences.

“I’m delighted that we have a real opportunity — with my firm — to right many historical wrongs. If you want to be able to create inclusive economic growth, it means you have to start removing these barriers that continue to fall disproportionately on the communities of color,” he declared.

The governor has called the scope of his pardons “the most far-reaching and most aggressive executive action” among officials across the country who have sought to end criminal justice inequities with the growing legalization of marijuana.

The aforementioned newspaper has indicated that nine other states and multiple cities have pardoned hundreds of thousands of marijuana convicts in recent years, but this measure by Moore significantly affects communities of color because Maryland has one of the worst records in the country for disproportionately imprison black people.

In addition, the signing will coincide with the ‘Juneteenth’ celebrations, the day that commemorates the emancipation of the enslaved black population, and Moore is currently the only black governor of a state in the United States.

These pardons will not free anyone from jail because they involve misdemeanor charges, so they carry short sentences, and their prosecutions have stopped since it became legal to carry small amounts of marijuana in the state. Maryland voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2022 that legalizes recreational marijuana for those 21 and older. This rule came into force in July 2023.

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