Declaring the war on drugs over in Baltimore, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced Friday she will make permanent her COVID-19 policy to dismiss all criminal charges for the possession of drugs including heroin.
“I am… announcing our COVID policies will now become permanent. And America’s failed policies on drugs, on drug users in the city of Baltimore is over,” Mosby said.
The city’s top prosecutor also said she will continue to dismiss criminal cases for nonviolent crimes of attempted drug distribution, prostitution, trespassing, open containers and minor traffic offenses. Since her office stopped taking these cases one year ago, prosecutors have dismissed 1,400 criminal cases and a similar number of warrants, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Violent crime, meanwhile, has declined about 20% so far this year compared to the same three months of last year, largely before the coronavirus pandemic, according to police statistics. Similarly, property crime declined 35% when comparing those time periods.
“Clearly, the data suggests that there is no public safety value in prosecuting these low-level offenses,” Mosby said.
Under Mosby’s COVID-19 policy, drug arrests have declined about 80% over last year, according to her office. Police Commissioner Michael Harrison said commanders rewrote the guidelines for officers after Mosby stopped prosecuting cases of drug possession. Mosby’s actions come as the possession of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and other drugs remain illegal under state law.
Mosby noted 911 calls for drug use, prostitution and public intoxication did not increase over the past year. In fact, she said the number of 911 calls for drugs declined by one-third compared to the same months before the pandemic. The 911 calls for sex work fell by half, she said.
During her news conference, Mosby also announced a city partnership with Baltimore Crisis Response Inc. to direct people with drug addiction and those suffering mental-health crises to receive support and treatment — not a prison sentence. The center already is funded by state and federal grant money and will not cost the city more money, officials said.