Hit & Run

Baltimore's Top Prosecutor Will Stop Prosecuting Marijuana Possession Cases

Whether the police will stop arresting people is another question.

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Marilyn Mosby
Kevin Richardson/TNS/Newscom

Baltimore's top prosecutor has announced that she's not going to be taking on marijuana possession cases within the city and is going to attempt to vacate 5,000 convictions.

Marilyn Mosby, the state's attorney for Baltimore, is probably best known for trying to prosecute the Baltimore police officers who arrested Freddie Gray in 2015. Gray died in police custody of injuries sustained while being driven around in a police van. Her attempts failed miserably, leading to a hung jury and three acquittals.

Mosby is now focusing on apparently trying to get the notoriously corrupt police in Baltimore to deal with the city's actual serious crime problems. As she told The New York Times, "If you ask that mom whose son was killed where she would rather us spend our time and our attention—on solving that murder or prosecuting marijuana laws—it's a no-brainer."

Under Mosby's new rules, she will not charge anybody for possessing any amount of marijuana—even large amounts—without accompanying evidence of intent to deal, like baggies or scales. She says she's also going to direct first-time felony dealers to a diversion program that could result in the case being expunged if the program is successfully completed.

Attempting to vacate those old convictions may be much more of a challenge. Maryland does not have statutes that make it easy for prosecutors to overturn previous convictions unless they can show that an error was made. She has to seek changes in the state's laws.

It's also not terribly clear, unfortunately, if her decision will actually result in Baltimore police declining to arrest people for marijuana possession in the first place. She said in that Times interview that the current acting police commissioner would not tell his officers to stop arresting marijuana users, clinging to the belief that marijuana use drives violent crime. The Baltimore Sun reports that police representatives did not attend her press conference today and are planning their own response.