February 1, 2019
Hon. Marilyn J. Mosby
State’s Attorney for Baltimore City, MD
120 East Baltimore Street, 9th Floor
Baltimore, MD 21202
Dear Ms. Mosby –
Thank you for your decision, as State’s Attorney, to no longer prosecute marijuana possession cases in the City of Baltimore and to seek legislative reforms that will allow you to vacate past convictions. Your leadership on this issue demonstrates your understanding that harms caused to our community by “the drug problem” are aggravated, if not caused, by punitive policies. The criminal justice approach to substance use leads to unemployment, homelessness, untreated illness, and stigma — in short, the catastrophic emotional and economic costs that we see in Baltimore every day.
We are participants in the Maryland Harm Reduction Action Network and are committed to promoting the health, dignity, and respect for people who use drugs by educating about, advocating for, and promoting the use of harm reduction principles. We support your justice-oriented policy change and stand by your efforts to seek legislation to codify these reforms. Many of us, if permitted by our tax status, are eager to work with you and the people of Maryland to pass such bills when introduced in the General Assembly.
We hope your change in policy is understood as another important step to decriminalize people who use drugs. People who use drugs do not deserve to be stigmatized or punished. Nevertheless, many Baltimoreans are still charged and convicted for possession of other controlled substances and paraphernalia. In essence, thousands of citizens are criminalized for being poor, experiencing homelessness, or having a health emergency like an overdose.
Your proposal to vacate marijuana possession convictions is recognition that criminal records themselves constitute life sentences of collateral punishment, blocking the full participation in society of people who long ago were targeted by the justice system, by forever limiting their opportunities for employment, housing and education. Your policy is the result of the examination of a record that demonstrates that drug arrest practices in the City of Baltimore have an utterly unjustifiable history of racial disparity. That evidence which supports the marijuana possession prosecution change is equally applicable to other drug possession prosecutions.
We encourage you and other city agencies and leaders, including the Mayor, the City Council, the Baltimore Police Department and the City and State Health Departments to embrace other necessary reforms to analyze and understand drug use through the lenses of justice and public health which call for expansion of syringe service programs, reduction of barriers to accessing medication-assisted treatment, and authorization and establishment of overdose prevention sites.
Baltimore Harm Reduction Coalition
CASH: City Advocates in Solidarity with the Homeless
Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, Silver Spring, MD
Daniel Carl Torsch Foundation
Law Enforcement Action Partnership
Libertarian Party of Maryland
James’ Place Inc.
On Our Own of St. Mary’s, Inc.
Reframe Health and Justice
Save Our Children family peer support group
Students for Sensible Drug Policy
The Human Trafficking Prevention Project
Barbara Allen, Ellicott City, MD
Brittany Shannahan, Healthcare is a Human Right Maryland
Christine Rodriguez, MPH, Baltimore City
Dan Morhaim, Baltimore County
E. Cameron Hartofelis, MA, MPH, Baltimore City
Guli Fager, Baltimore, MD
Jeff Singer, University of Maryland School of Social Work
Jess Nesbitt, Baltimore City
John Clifton, Baltimore City
Melvina Hall, Peer Support Specialist, Baltimore City
Molly Greenberg, MPH, BSN, RN, Baltimore City
Rachel Moler, Howard County
Raichelle Johnson, Baltimore City
Reah Vasilakopoulos, Baltimore City
Richard Bruno, MD, MPH, Baltimore City