This evening, a public forum titles "Legalizing Marijuana: The Impact on Racial Justice in Baltimore City" will be held in Baltimore to discuss the disproportionate impact of marijuana laws on people of color in the city. The event is sponsored by the Marijuana Policy Project in partnership with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and the Baltimore Student Harm Reduction Coalition.
The keynote speaker for the event is retired Baltimore police officer and Maryland State Police Maj. Neill Franklin, who now serves as executive director of LEAP. Franklin, a 34-year law enforcement veteran, spent 23 years with the Maryland State Police working as an undercover narcotics officer and head trainer for drug enforcement.
African-Americans in Baltimore are five times more likely than other races to be arrested for drug possession, according to the Department of Justice. The drug that is most often involved in these arrests is marijuana. The state of Maryland recently adopted a law decriminalizing possession of small amounts of pot, yet despite this, Baltimore cops arrested nearly 500 people for crimes related to marijuana possession in 2015. 96 percent of those arrested were African-American.
“In many states across this country we have begun the work of ending mass arrests for marijuana possession, yet in my home city of Baltimore we continue using marijuana as a pretext for stops, searches and arrests, resulting in the disenfranchisement of Black citizens,” Franklin said. “It's time for our state legislature to do right by its people and end the prohibition of marijuana in Maryland. A regulated market will not only end disparate policing practices, but it will free our police to focus more resources on crimes of violence.”
The forum begins at 6:30 p.m. today in the Assembly Room of the Baltimore War Memorial at 101 N. Gay St. It is free and open to the public.