On Jan. 31, 2019, this board published an editorial regarding Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s announcement that the State’s Attorney’s Office would no longer prosecute individuals arrested for possession of marijuana, no matter the amount of marijuana seized, absent a finding of an intent to distribute. Just days later, on Feb. 5, a man from North Carolina, Dwight Chinyee, was arrested in Baltimore for having 17 one-pound bricks of marijuana in the trunk of his car. Chinyee was held at Central Booking without bail until his preliminary hearing on March 7. This incident is the very crux of this board’s concern as stated in the previous editorial regarding Ms. Mosby’s announcement not to prosecute marijuana cases and the confusion the decision could create.
In defending his client, Chinyee’s attorney argued that the state’s attorney’s announcement not to prosecute possession of marijuana “no matter the amount” was confusing; he stated also that, as a result of his arrest and detention, Chinyee lost his job. The state’s attorney responded that it initially found several factors that were indicative of distribution charges in this case, but after review it determined “that the facts did not extend beyond mere possession” and decided to dismiss the case at the preliminary hearing stage. This result, and response by the state’s attorney, is counterproductive and is, quite frankly, unacceptable.
Ms. Mosby’s rationale for disallowing marijuana possession prosecution is the need to dismantle disproportionate enforcement on minority communities, the contention that no link between marijuana possession and violent crime exists, allocution of law enforcement for other areas of crime and to alleviate the harsh effect of criminal convictions with respect to employment prospects. While this rationale may be well-intentioned, Ms. Mosby’s announcement creates conflict regarding weight or amount of marijuana, and it produces even more conflict between the Baltimore Police Department, whose officers are still arresting citizens for possession of marijuana in accordance with Maryland’s criminal law statute, and prosecutors. This policy generates discrepancies between the law on probable cause for searches and seizures that lead to other criminal charges and creates confusion over what exactly is legal or illegal in terms of possession.
In light of the Chinyee case, and the future cases that are guaranteed to follow, we once again strongly urge Ms. Mosby and supporters to take this marijuana issue to the legislature where it belongs.
All Editorial Advisory Board members took part in this opinion.
EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS
James B. Astrachan, Chair
James K. Archibald
John Bainbridge Jr.
Martha Ertman (on sabbatical)
Arthur F. Fergenson
Angela W. Russell
Debra G. Schubert
The Daily Record Editorial Advisory Board is composed of members of the legal profession who serve voluntarily and are independent of The Daily Record. Through their ongoing exchange of views, members of the board attempt to develop consensus on issues of importance to the bench, bar and public. When their minds meet, unsigned opinions will result. When they differ, or if a conflict exists, majority views and the names of members who do not participate will appear. Members of the community are invited to contribute letters to the editor and/or columns about opinions expressed by the Editorial Advisory Board.