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Maryland Governor Wes Moore pardons for over 175,000 marijuana convictions. Why Voting Local Is Important?

On 6/ 17 / 2024 Maryland Governor Wes Moore has issued pardons for over 175,000 marijuana convictions. His decision, described as "the most sweeping state-level pardon" in U.S. history, will clear low-level marijuana possession and certain paraphernalia charges for an estimated 100,000 individuals. The governor's office noted that multiple convictions for a single person were possible within these pardons.

The decision aligns with the state's evolving policies on marijuana. Almost two years ago, Maryland voters approved a constitutional amendment legalizing recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older. Governor Moore highlighted the importance of this action in addressing the impact of previous policies that have disproportionately affected Black and brown communities.

The disproportionate impact of marijuana laws on Black and brown communities highlights the need for comprehensive criminal justice reform. Addressing these disparities requires a multi-faceted approach, including changes to drug laws, expungement of past convictions, and broader systemic reforms to ensure equity in the justice system. High incarceration rates disrupt family structures and community stability. Many Black and brown families face the economic and emotional toll of having a loved one incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses.

Despite similar usage rates among different racial groups, Black and Latino individuals are significantly more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. A report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found that Black people are 3.64 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession. Once charged, Black and brown individuals often face harsher sentences compared to their white counterparts. Studies have shown that racial minorities receive longer sentences for similar drug offenses, including marijuana possession.

Private prisons operate for profit and have financial incentives to keep their facilities full. Contracts often include "lockup quotas" requiring states to maintain a specific occupancy rate, typically between 80% and 100%, or pay penalties to private prison companies. This creates a demand for inmates, including those convicted of minor drug offenses. The prevalence of unjust marijuana arrests can be attributed to the financial incentives embedded in the prison system and the broader context of the War on Drugs.

By clearing these convictions, Governor Moore is promoting restorative justice, helping individuals affected by these convictions to regain opportunities that were unjustly taken from them. This includes improving their chances of obtaining employment, housing, and education, often hindered by a criminal record. Announcing the pardons around Juneteenth, commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, adds symbolic weight to the decision. It underscores the ongoing struggle for racial equality and justice, linking the fight against mass incarceration and racial disparities in drug enforcement to the broader civil rights movement.

This highlights why local elections are a better investment in black and brown communities. Those who voted for Governor Moore are seeing a return on their time investment.

Voting for a governor is considered voting on a local level. While national elections are crucial for setting broad policies and electing federal leaders, local elections have a more immediate and significant impact on individuals' daily lives. By voting in local elections, citizens can directly influence the decisions that shape their communities, hold local officials accountable, and foster political engagement that can drive more significant changes.

Governors have the authority to issue executive orders that can have immediate effects within the state. These orders can address urgent issues like natural disasters, public health emergencies, and law enforcement. Voters can more easily hold governors accountable compared to federal officials. Governors often engage more directly with constituents, making their policies and actions more transparent and their leadership more responsive to local concerns.

Black and brown communities must vote wisely for local officials such as councilmen, judges, and other local representatives because these positions directly impact their daily lives and the overall well-being of their communities. Judges play a crucial role in the criminal justice system, affecting how laws are interpreted and enforced. Their decisions can influence sentencing, bail conditions, and the handling of juvenile cases, which often disproportionately affect Black and brown communities.

By voting for judges and district attorneys committed to criminal justice reform, communities can help reduce racial disparities in sentencing and incarceration rates. These officials can implement policies that promote fair treatment and minimize the over-policing of minority neighborhoods. Local officials can drive economic policies that create jobs, support minority-owned businesses, and improve infrastructure in underserved areas. This can help to alleviate poverty and create more equitable economic opportunities for Black and brown communities.

Voting wisely for local officials such as councilmen, judges, and other local representatives is essential for Black and brown communities to ensure their needs are met, systemic inequities are addressed, and their voices are heard in the governance process. This active participation can lead to meaningful changes that improve the quality of life and promote justice and equity within their communities.


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