July 8, 2024

Maryland recently announced mass pardons for individuals with state-level marijuana paraphernalia or possession convictions. However, consumers must understand the difference between pardons and expungements.

Pardons do not seal an individual’s record, meaning the public can still access these records. Maryland must pass legislation to seal or expunge marijuana convictions to remove these records from the public eye. Current laws require individuals with marijuana convictions to petition a court to expunge their convictions. In some cases, a state-run expungement program can expunge these records for them.

Though the public can still access a pardoned record, forgiving these crimes can restore various civil liberties. For example, a pardoned individual could regain their ability to vote. Individuals must also understand that pardons may not help as much as an expungement when job or house hunting.

The governor plans to work with the legislature to do more. The governor explained, “Maryland made history when we legalized cannabis by referendum. 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.”

The governor further declared, “Today, we take a big step 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.”

Following this example, other governors and mayors have issued pardons for some marijuana-related offenses. Examples include those in Nevada, Massachusetts, Oregon, Kansas City, Missouri, and Birmingham, Alabama. President Biden has also issued pardons for people convicted of marijuana possession in the District of Columbia or on federal lands.

Many people hope that Maryland will pass legislation to automatically expunge more marijuana-related convictions. The current state-initiated expungement program had a July 1 deadline. However, it remains uncertain whether the state met that deadline. Regardless, the state will work to complete any uncompleted expungements.

The current automatic expungement program has helped some Maryland residents access more opportunities. Such improvements include securing employment, housing, and education. As such, the governor intends to work with legislatures to help individuals obtain expungements. So far, Maryland has pardoned over 175,000 marijuana-related convictions and expects to achieve significant results. The state also hopes to address the racial disparity that accompanies such crimes. Advocates of pardons and expungements acknowledge that this disparity is apparent in every state, and they hope that granting such forgiveness will address this issue in one fell swoop.

Information provided here is for educational and informational purposes only and should not constitute as legal advice. We recommend you contact your own legal counsel for any questions regarding your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.