“Mayor Pugh, stop pot arrests. Solve murders instead.”
That’s the message the advocacy group Mothers of Murdered Sons and Daughters United (MOMS) is sending to Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and local police officials after they declined to embrace a marijuana policy change at the city attorney’s office.
Important billboard from @momsstopmurder around Baltimore today urging @MayorPugh50 & Baltimore PD to focus on real public safety: prioritize solving murders, not arrests for pot possession https://t.co/4LZ0cSxnIc
— Matt Ferner (@matthewferner) February 20, 2019
The office announced last month that it would no longer prosecute people for cannabis possession and will move to expunge the records of individuals with prior convictions going back to 2011.
Pugh said that she supports what Baltimore State’s Attorney Marylin Mosby is “attempting to address, namely the unnecessary criminalization of those who possess marijuana merely for personal use,” but that illicit drug sales “fuel criminality in our neighborhoods, which leads to violence.”
MOMS sees it differently. The organization, which advocates and provides services for victimized families “to move toward healing,” is frustrated over low police clearance rates for homicide and feels that prosecuting people for non-violent marijuana offenses is a waste of law enforcement resources.
And that frustration escalated after Interim Baltimore Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle dismissed the city attorney’s policy change and said his officers would continue to arrest people for cannabis possession.
To bring attention to the issue, MOMS will be driving a truck around City Hall and police headquarters with a billboard featuring the mayor and their message. The group also launched a website outlining its concerns:
“The Baltimore Police Department has said that it will still arrest people for having marijuana, even though the State’s Attorney no longer prosecutes marijuana possession in Baltimore. Mayor Pugh can demand that her new police commissioner stop wasting law enforcement resources on pot possession arrests.”
For the past three years, there’s been an average of one homicide a day in Baltimore. Arrests were made in just 27 percent of such cases in 2017.
At least one recent study supports the idea that ending cannabis criminalization can help police prioritize more serious crimes. An analysis of law enforcement clearance rates in Colorado and Washington state showed that police started making more arrests for violent and property crimes after the states legalized—a trend that didn’t occur in non-legal states.
Photo courtesy of MOMS.