Grant Awarded as State’s Cannabis Legalization Bill Goes Into Effect July 1, 2023
News of MVLS’ grant award, which coincides with the authorization of adult use and possession of cannabis in Maryland, was highlighted in The Daily Record (here), The Baltimore Business Journal (here), The Times-Tribune (here), Investors Observer (here), and covered in an article by Mike Curley in Law360 (here). You can read the full press release, below.
BALTIMORE – Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service (MVLS), a statewide provider of free legal services to low-income Marylanders, will receive a $542,775 grant from Maryland Legal Services Corporation (MLSC) to implement a statewide outreach, education and referral network to help expunge the criminal records of Marylanders charged with cannabis-related violations. A constitutional amendment that authorizes the adult use and possession of cannabis in Maryland goes into effect July 1, 2023.
“Given the racial disparities in arrests and sentencing for cannabis violations, the expanded expungement laws will right a wrong that has held back thousands of people.”Chris Sweeney, Workforce Development Manager
MVLS’ funding is part of a $2.5 million grant awarded to eight legal services providers in the state. The Maryland General Assembly appropriated the one-time funding to MLSC to distribute to its grantees to educate individuals on changes to cannabis and expungement laws and support expungement efforts between April 2023 and June 2024.
“We welcome this change in the law that will further reduce employment barriers for many Marylanders and appreciate the General Assembly’s recognition that education, outreach and legal assistance play critical roles in stabilizing communities,” said MVLS Executive Director Susan Francis. “MVLS looks forward to working with the seven other grantees to quickly launch a unified and comprehensive initiative to remove the charges from individuals’ records and give them a second chance.”
MVLS will work with Allegany Law Foundation; Community Legal Services of Prince George’s County; FreeState Justice; Harford County Bar Foundation; Homeless Persons Representation Project; Maryland Legal Aid; and MidShore Pro Bono to increase awareness and accessibility of expungement services starting this month. This collaboration will include public awareness and direct mailing campaigns, free legal clinics and increased staffing.
MVLS Attorney and Workforce Development Manager Chris Sweeney said, “Expungement is a simple legal process that can have a substantial impact on a person’s life, opening doors to stable employment and housing. Given the racial disparities in arrests and sentencing for cannabis violations, the expanded expungement laws will right a wrong that has held back thousands of people.”
Marylanders with cannabis-related charges can visit mvlslaw.org/free-legal-help to check their eligibility and apply for services.
As a part of the project, MVLS will hire four community navigators to cover Western Maryland, Southern Maryland, Baltimore City and the prison population – and connect clients to MVLS attorneys and staff, or the appropriate legal services organization involved with the project. MVLS also will hire a paralegal to coordinate the navigators’ efforts and perform legal research and document requests.
Media Contact: Sandy Arnette, 410-274-5975, firstname.lastname@example.org