Po­lice pres­ence puts damper on Bal­ti­more ‘weed zone’


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 catc­hand-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.

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-again­st­them,” 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?”

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