Mosby weighing options after court denies dismissal of cannabis convictions

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Image via the State’s Attorney’s Office of Baltimore City.

Standing outside of her downtown office, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby said she is now weighing all options after judges today denied her request to dismiss thousands of cannabis possession convictions.

Mosby said the petition was denied without her office being given an opportunity to present any kind of legal argument, a decision she described as “atypical.”

“The role that the courts play in our society is to ensure and be a place of last resort for those that are harmed, which is why I’m incredibly disappointed by [Friday’s] ruling,” she said.

She said her office is “considering all our options, and we’ll continue to pursue every avenue to ensure that we’re standing up for the people of Baltimore.”

The Daily Record was first to report the Baltimore judges denied the motion to vacate 5,000 cannabis-related convictions dating back to 2011, and noted at least one of the judges found “procedural and substantive issues with her office’s filing.”

Mosby sought to have those convictions expunged as part of a larger policy, announced in January, stopping prosecutors from pursuing cases for cannabis possession.

“When I ask myself, Is the enforcement and prosecution of marijuana possession making us safer as a city?, the answer is emphatically no,” Mosby said at the time of the new policy rollout. “There is no public safety value in prosecuting marijuana possession.”

A December investigation by Baltimore Fishbowl and the Baltimore Institute for Nonprofit Journalism found that hundreds of Baltimoreans were arrested in the years since decriminalization, and nearly all of them–96 percent–were African-American. The Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office cited that report in its white paper explaining the rationale for the changes, along with its own data, including the statistic that prosecutors had dropped 88 percent of simple possession cases (1,001 out of 1,128) since 2014.

Police have said outright they are not on board with the decision. Gary Tuggle, serving as acting commissioner at the time of the announcement, said his officers would continue to make arrests for weed possession in accordance with state law. Mayor Catherine Pugh’s office told The New York Times she backed Tuggle’s position.

The current commissioner, Michael Harrison, took a similar stance, saying his officers will follow the letter of the law, while also insisting officers have been de-prioritizing possession arrests since decriminalization of up to 10 grams took effect in 2014.

In deciding to move away from cannabis cases, Mosby joined a growing number of big-city prosecutors such as Philadelphia’s Larry Krasner and St. Louis’ Kim Gardner. She said today she’s committed to her policy.

“There’s no disparate use, but there is disparate enforcement of these laws.”

In the face of violence in Baltimore, pursuing cannabis possession cases is “counterproductive,” she said.

Brandon Weigel


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