BALTIMORE — A proclamation last month by Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby that her office would stop prosecuting people for marijuana possession has done little to stop police from making arrests for it, community advocates say.
Walker Gladden and Clayton Guyton, who work for the Rose Street Community Center, wanted to highlight the confusion generated by the situation and call for better coordination among city police, prosecutors and the community on the issue.
So to draw attention to their cause — and hoping to establish a safe place to smoke marijuana — they sought to designate a “weed zone” Sunday afternoon at the corner of North Rose and East Monument streets in East Baltimore.
“The community’s caught in the middle,” Gladden said. “It’s catch-and-release. We’re caught in the middle, and something’s got to be done.”
“We want clarity,” Guyton said.
The sight of a large police contingent across the street, however, quickly put an end to any notion among the dozen or so people who showed up that lighting up a joint would go unenforced.
One woman pulled a few nuggets from her coat and began to roll them up, but walked quickly away from approaching television cameras as one of the officers crossed the street toward her.
Another person who had heard about the “weed zone” asked if that meant what it sounded like: Had the city really legalized marijuana on a Baltimore corner?
“No,” a man emphatically replied, pointing to the police.
Baltimore Police Maj. Jeffrey W. Shorter attended the event and said he knew the organizers.
He hoped they got their wish for a productive discussion with police and city officials. “It’s not us-against-them,” he said. “We all have the same goal: peace in the community.”
James McEachin, a chaplain with Corner Rock Ministries, said he attended the protest to ensure everyone stayed safe.
Police have a duty to enforce the law, McEachin said, and the law still labels marijuana as an illegal substance. Smoking it in front of the police, he said, would be tantamount to “tempting the devil.”
“Why would they want to do that?” he asked. “It’s still illegal.”
Gladden, the Rose Street Community Center’s youth coordinator, said establishing “weed zones” would allow city officials to limit marijuana use to areas that do not disturb children, seniors and others sensitive to the smoke.
“We’ve got to put some regulation around this process,” he said.
Charlie Hamlette, 39, who lives in East Baltimore, said he couldn’t understand why police would continue to arrest people for a charge almost certain to be dropped.
“If you’re just going to give me a walk-through” of Central Booking, he said, “why even lock me up?”