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For years, crumbs of cannabis impacted a Maryland man's life. Now he sees a clearer future

Shiloh Jordan, a Baltimore native whose cannabis conviction was pardoned by an executive order from Maryland Gov. Wes Moore on Monday, walks through the Center for Urban Families in Baltimore where he works, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough)
Stephanie Scarbrough/AP
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AP
Shiloh Jordan, a Baltimore native whose cannabis conviction was pardoned by an executive order from Maryland Gov. Wes Moore on Monday, walks through the Center for Urban Families in Baltimore where he works, Tuesday, June 18, 2024. (AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough)

BALTIMORE (AP) — For years, a few crumbs of cannabis played an outsized role in shaping Shiloh Jordan's life.

With a stroke of a pen by Maryland Gov. Wes Moore, Jordan looks forward to that being in the past for him — as well as tens of thousands of other Marylanders who have been pardoned for misdemeanor marijuana convictions.

“I just feel like this is a big opportunity for people, you know, to not let struggles get in their way,” Jordan, 32, said in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, a day after he watched the governor sign an executive order for the sweeping pardon of more than 197,000 convictions.

Jordan was in his early 20s when he was pulled over in Howard County, Maryland, for not wearing a seatbelt, as he left his job as a custodian at a nursing home. The officer smelled marijuana, and with a piece of tape, she found cannabis crumbs on the floor of the vehicle, Jordan said.

“She was just like, ‘Yep, you’re going to jail,’" Jordan recalled of the incident from about a dozen years ago. “I’m like what? Are you serious?”

“You can’t even do nothing with this, but that was the law back then, so she took me to jail, locked me up," Jordan added. “At that time, I did feel like you know, I’m like, man, whatever. Like, it’s a little petty weed charge, and then, like I said, just later on it just was affecting me when I applied for a job.”

On his second day at a new job, Jordan was informed that a background check by his employer found the misdemeanor conviction. He was fired, which Jordan described as disheartening.

“I felt defeated,” he said. "I felt, you know, upset a little bit, you know. I was disheartened, because, like I said, for the last couple of months, I did not have a job, so I was just trying to, you know, do the right thing.”

He ended up going back to college and now works as an outreach coordinator at the Center for Urban Families in Baltimore.

The governor's actions this week come after President Joe Biden's administration announced earlier this year that it will take a historic step toward easing federal restrictions on cannabis, reclassifying the drug.

Recreational cannabis was legalized in Maryland in 2023 after voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2022 with 67% of the vote. Maryland decriminalized possession of personal use amounts of cannabis on Jan. 1, 2023. Now, 24 states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana.

“This is about changing how both government and society view those who have been walled off from opportunity because of broken and uneven policies,” Moore, a Democrat, said during Monday's announcement.

The governor's pardon absolves an individual from guilt of a criminal offense. But it is not an expungement that destroys the record of the offense. The Maryland Judiciary will instead make a note that the offense has been pardoned, leaving it to remain on the record. People who have been pardoned can seek expungement in court.

Jordan said he's unfamiliar with the expungement process but plans to look into it.

On Monday, hours after Moore signed an executive order granting the pardons, the clerk of court for Baltimore said the office was committed to providing all necessary assistance for expunging the charges from people’s records.

In a statement, Xavier Conaway, the clerk of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City, said the governor's action “acknowledges the importance of the fair administration of justice in removing educational, housing, and employment barriers that have long disproportionately affected the lives of many Baltimoreans.”

Maryland's largest city had the state's highest number of pardons — 39,865, or about 23% of the total number.

“Our office is committed and ready to provide all necessary assistance to ensure that pardoned individuals in Baltimore City can navigate the expungement process smoothly and efficiently,” Conaway said.

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Witte reported from Annapolis, Md.

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