Governor O’Malley Can’t Reconcile His Tough-on-Crime Brand with Decriminalization

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Even though the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana is becoming almost a political no-brainer (especially as increasing numbers of Americans favor outright legalization), our ostensibly progressive governor’s “tough on crime” brand has made it hard for him to oppose incarceration in any case. How much sympathy can we expect Gov. Martin O’Malley to muster for scofflaw stoners when he waited until 2012 to commute the sentence of a man serving life in prison, after being made aware of his probable innocence in 2008?

His official statement on the marijuana bill, which he has agreed to sign, reveals his inability to embrace the philosophy behind decriminalization. “As a young prosecutor, I once thought that decriminalizing the possession of marijuana might undermine the public will necessary to combat drug violence and improve public safety,” he said. “I now think that [decriminalization] is an acknowledgment of the low priority that our courts, our prosecutors, our police, and the vast majority of citizens already attach to this transgression of public order and public health. Such an acknowledgment in law might even lead to a greater focus on far more serious threats to public safety and the lives of our citizens.”

Translation: “I used to be against decriminalization and basically still am, but everyone else seems to be for it. So here’s hoping.”

It’ll be interesting to see how he frames his role in this legislation to suit his presidential aspirations.



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