Baltimore, Maryland– The People’s Commission to Decriminalize Maryland will be closing out their work as a collective in Spring 2023. We are proud of the commission’s accomplishments over the past four years and feel optimistic that the future of decriminalization efforts in Maryland is bright.
When the commission formed in 2019, we hoped to amplify the work of our partners and raise awareness of the ways Maryland’s Criminal Code could be amended to cause less harm to our loved ones and community members. The commission presented a different way to think about justice advocacy in Maryland by looking at how status offenses were affecting our community members.
Over these past four years, The People’s Commission has brought awareness of the importance of decriminalizing the status of Maryland’s most marginalized populations through education and advocacy. With the support of our partners, the People’s Commission completed a survey of Maryland’s Criminal Code and published our findings. Over the 2021 and 2022 legislative session, we collectively submitted over 20 pieces of testimony in support of decriminalization efforts surrounding youth justice, drugs and paraphernalia, bodily autonomy and the unhoused population.
The work of the commission’s work groups will be continued by partner organizations as several new and robust coalitions have formed in the past year. Progressive Maryland now heads the Statewide Drug Decriminalization Coalition and will be addressing how we ensure Maryland’s new cannabis laws provide reparations for harms targeting Black neighborhoods. The Job Opportunities Task Force will continue to lead on issues of poverty criminalization, including introducing bills that seek to end fines and fees imposed by courts that unduly burden those without financial resources. The Maryland Youth Justice Coalition has been reestablished and will continue the fight to ensure that the recommendations made by the Juvenile Justice Reform Council are implemented. Finally, we are encouraged by the newly formed Trans Rights Advocacy Coalition, which has already made strides in addressing issues of bodily autonomy for Maryland residents.
These past four years of The People’s Commission have been an inexplicably rewarding experience. It has been an honor to support a community of partners whose passion for decriminalizing Maryland shines through all aspects of the work. We are confident in the abilities of our partners and coalitions that will continue to work towards a more just and equitable Maryland.