Baltimore’s Marilyn Mosby Becomes Latest Top Attorney to Stop Prosecuting Marijuana Cases But Faces Major Hurdle—the Police

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Marijuana possession cases will no longer be prosecuted in Baltimore, regardless of how much marijuana is found or whether the person has a criminal record. Marilyn Mosby, the State’s attorney for Baltimore, made the announcement on Tuesday, making her the latest prosecutor to move away from trying marijuana cases.

“We need to get serious about prioritizing what actually makes us safe,” Mosby said in a prepared statement, “and 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.”

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Mosby laid out the reasons for her decision—echoing the rationale of other prosecutors who have similarly vowed to stop trying marijuana convictions. She cited the disproportionate effect they had on communities of color, which in turn trust between those communities and police.

“Jailing people for marijuana possession is a vast and ongoing moral failure,” Mosby added.

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As the New York Times reports, Mosby is looking to vacate nearly 5,000 marijuana convictions going back to 2011. Going forward, anyone charged for the first time with felony possession with intent to distribute will instead go through a diversion program.

She joins St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell, who similarly vowed to end all marijuana prosecutions at the beginning of this year after being elected on his reform agenda. Chicago’s Kim Foxx and Philadelphia’s Larry Krasner have also backed off marijuana cases, as have Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. and Brooklyn D.A. Eric Gonzalez.

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Washington state and San Francisco have also recently moved to retroactively throw out marijuana convictions.

But Mosby has at least one major opponent in her own city: interim police commissioner, Gary Tuggle, who says he won’t tell his officers to stop making marijuana arrests, according to the Times. His opposition calls into question how effective Mosby’s proposed changes will be, particularly if police can continue to give citations to marijuana users.

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Tuggle also made clear who he would take marching orders from: Maryland lawmakers.

“Baltimore police will continue to make arrests for illegal marijuana possession unless and until the state legislature changes the law regarding marijuana possession,” Tuggle said, according to CNN.

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Anne Branigin

Staff writer, The Root. Sometimes I blog slow, sometimes I blog quick. Do you have this in coconut?