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The 2016 Weed Issue

The 2016 Weed Issue
(Illustration by Charlie Herrick)

Let's begin this year's Weed Issue with a brief, maddening story from a few years ago, before decriminalization, about being homeless and getting busted for pot, as told to City Paper's Kenneth Stone Breckenridge by deputy public defender for Baltimore Natalie A.M. Finegar.

In 2012, police arrested a black homeless man on the Light Rail for some weed that allegedly fell out of his pocket. Upon arrest, he listed his address as homeless. When he showed up in court he was offered probation before judgement with unsupervised probation along with a $100 fine and $57.50 in court charges. He didn't pay the fine or court costs and two years later, a warrant was served on him at a homeless shelter.

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He spent two days in jail. A judge dismissed the contempt charge for not paying the fine but the court costs and his unpaid fine were referred to the Central Collection Unit. Two to three days after the man appeared in court, a 17 percent fee for the collection and interest was added. The interest would accumulate and if he couldn't pay, the collection agency would garnish his wages, according to the paperwork.

"If the same events on the Light Rail transpired today," Finegar writes in an email, "it wouldn't even be a crime. Possession of marijuana less than 10 grams is now a civil offense."

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Finegar adds that homeless clients are apt to lose their paperwork for the initial court appearance and subsequent notices often never reach them since they've no proper address—and they tumble into deeper debt as the interest snowballs.

"Deferred payments are a regular practice of our court system. The Department of Justice recently issued a recommendation that court systems move away from fines," Finegar writes. "Fines disproportionately affect the poor and call into question the equality of justice for certain crimes."

Indeed, although Americans like to think pauper's prisons went out in Charles Dickens' time, studies have shown that across the country the poor can be and are re-arrested for their inability to pay everything from court fees to minor traffic fines.

Here, this Baltimore man's story is illustrative of just how many problems a simple pot possession charge can create for someone, especially when that someone lacks resources. It's also an example of the staggering amount of time and effort put into punishing a non-violent offender for something that is no longer even a crime in Maryland as of October 2014.

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Welcome to a slightly more serious Weed Issue. See, doing something as light as our annual weed issue this time around, what with it being the one-year anniversary of Freddie Gray's death and the Baltimore Uprising and all, seems strange. We began our Freddie Gray coverage in last week's issue—to correspond with Gray's April 12 arrest— and we will pick it back up next week in April 27 issue, but still, some of these issues are connected.

This week, City Paper explores some of those connections. We have an interview with Kaitlyn Boecker from the Drug Policy Alliance and an exploration of weed networking group Women Grow. And then, because sometimes you just want to forget all this for a while, we've got our usual product reviews, a piece on "High Art," or going to the Baltimore Museum of Art while stoned, a look at smoking devices, an article on Greek music that came straight from the hash den, a look the weed-friendly comedy of "Broad City's" and the upcoming Comedy Central miniseries "Time Traveling Bong", an attempt to reimagine the pot movie canon, a parent's perspective on teens and weed, and a quick guide to some of the ridiculous stoner food you can find in the city when your munchies yearn for something slightly more sophisticated than Taco Bell. (Brandon Soderberg)

How legal weed skips potential black growers and distributors and a chat with Kaitlyn Boecker of the Drug Policy Alliance

In October of 2014, possession of under 10 grams of marijuana was decriminalized in Maryland and in January of this year, the Maryland General Assembly

Women Grow encourages inclusion, empathy, and awareness

Jen Brunekant is the first one with the microphone--she has an MBA, a DBA, a degree in science, and owns Herbal Alternatives in D.C. When she was in a car

On the bro-saturated, capitalist-catering visual grammar of basic-ass weed smoking

After years of casual smoking left me beholden to whatever dumb pipe my friends had on hand, I decided to buy my own piece. And when I finally did, I realized

Hard Lives and Hash Dens in Greek Music

The Manhattan apartments of Jack Gregory (born Ioannis Halikias) were for three decades, from the 1930s to the 1960s, a meeting-place for Greek and

Talking 'Broad City' season three and 'Time Traveling Bong'

Last year, we had a conversation about "Broad City" and how "real" and relatable it was (we'll never forget the pulling-a-head-hair-out-of-your-asscrack line),

Parents are scared straight

My sister forwards me the YouTube video with the comment, "WTF?"

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