Thousands of Cannabis Convictions Pardoned in Maryland

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An executive order from the governor pardoned a significant number of cannabis convictions, noting the efforts to rectify harms from past cannabis policies.

In a press release dated June 17, 2024, Maryland’s Governor Wes Moore announced the pardoning of 175,000 cannabis convictions in the state (1). Moore signed an executive order pardoning convictions including not only possession of cannabis but also drug paraphernalia possession, reportedly a first for any state pardoning cannabis convictions. Cannabis was legalized in Maryland in 2022 with substantial approval from voters.

"Maryland made history when we legalized cannabis by referendum,” stated Governor Moore in the press release (1). “But we cannot celebrate the benefits of legalization while forgetting the consequences of criminalization. No Marylander should face barriers to housing, employment, or education based on convictions for conduct that is no longer illegal. Today, we take a big step forward toward ensuring equal justice for all. But this won't be our last effort. We must continue to move in partnership to build a state and society that is more equitable, more just, and leaves no one behind.”


Both the press release and the executive order highlighted the racial disparities in cannabis convictions and prohibition (2). The order was signed with a “Pen to Right History” from the advocacy organization the Last Prisoner Project to symbolize the impact of legislation on correcting these consequences. “Black Marylanders have been arrested, prosecuted, and convicted for possession of cannabis at disproportionate rates, and the lasting disproportionate impact of arrest and prosecution for cannabis possession is antithetical to the Maryland voters' overwhelming approval of the legalization of cannabis use and possession and to the fair and equitable administration of justice,” the order stated (2).

The signing of the order intentionally occurred near the Juneteenth holiday (3).

“The enforcement of cannabis laws has disproportionately and overwhelmingly burdened communities of color,” stated Maryland Attorney General Anthony G. Brown in the press release. “Opportunities were denied because those who were convicted faced steep obstacles to jobs, education, and housing. Governor Moore’s pardons will remove these barriers and enable thousands of Marylanders to lead productive lives without the impediments created by their prior convictions. I thank Governor Moore for his bold and decisive action in the name of fairness and equity.”

As the press release noted, the executive order will not release anyone from prison and is not an expungement of offenses on record, though individuals can file for an expungement to remove convictions from public record. No action needs to be taken to obtain the pardon, but certain criteria need to be met in order to be eligible.

With this order, Maryland has become the most recent state pardoning cannabis convictions, nine other states having already issued pardons of their own (3). For example, on March 13, 2024, a press release from Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey announced the one-time pardoning of potentially hundreds of thousands of misdemeanor cannabis charges in the state (4). Specifically, convictions of state court misdemeanor possession of cannabis convictions —also known as possession of a “Class D substance” —before March 13, 2024, are the only convictions eligible for this pardon. “We’re taking this nation-leading action as part of our commitment to using the clemency process to advance fairness and equity in our criminal justice system,” Governor Healey had stated in the press release.


  1. Governor Moore Signs Nationally Historic Executive Order Pardoning 175,000 Maryland Cannabis Convictions The Office of Governor Wes Moore June 17, 2024.
  2. Full Pardons of Certain Convictions for Cannabis Possession (accessed June 19, 2024).
  3. Cox, E., Shepherd, K., and Mettler K. Maryland governor pardons 175,000 marijuana convictions in sweeping order (accessed June 19, 2024).
  4. McEvoy, E. Massachusetts Governor Healey Declares Intent to Pardon Cannabis Convictions (accessed June 19, 2024).