The pardons, which also applies to those who have died, “will automatically forgive every misdemeanor marijuana possession charge the Maryland judiciary could locate in the state’s electronic court records system, along with every misdemeanor paraphernalia charge tied to use or possession of marijuana,” the Post said.

“I’m ecstatic that we have a real opportunity with what I’m signing to right a lot of historical wrongs,” the Democratic governor said in an interview. “If you want to be able to create inclusive economic growth, it means you have to start removing these barriers that continue to disproportionately sit on communities of color.”

The pardons, are particularly timed to coincide with Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in the US.

“While the pardons will extend to anyone and everyone with a misdemeanor conviction for the possession of marijuana or paraphernalia, this unequivocally, without any doubt or reservation, disproportionately impacts — in a good way — Black and Brown Marylanders, we are arrested and convicted at higher rates for possession and use of marijuana when the rate at which we used it was no different than any other category of people.”

Voters in Maryland approved a constitutional amendment in 2022 legalizing recreational marijuana for people 21 and older. The amendment went into effect July 1, 2023.

Cannabis, and specifically how it is viewed by the public and politicians, has undergone a sea-change during the past decade.

In November 2023, a record 70% of Americans surveyed by Gallup said they supported cannabis legalization. In 2014, the share was 51%.

Restrictions easing

For more than 50 years, marijuana has been categorized as a Schedule I substance — alongside drugs like heroin and ecstasy, considered to have no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse — and subject to the strictest of restrictions.

But in April, the Biden administration moved to reclassify marijuana as a lower-risk substance. The US Department of Justice recommended it be rescheduled as a Schedule III controlled substance, a classification shared by prescription drugs such as ketamine and Tylenol with codeine.

The recommendation followed a US Food and Drug Administration review at the direction of Biden, who in 2022 had written to the Justice Department supporting marijuana’s reclassification.

Currently, 24 states, two territories and DC have legalized cannabis for adult recreational use, and 38 states allow medical use of cannabis products, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures. State-licensed cannabis dispensaries and retail shops are expected to generate $32.1 billion in sales this year, according to estimates from MJBiz, a cannabis industry trade publication and events organizer.