Legislative Work

Systemic Solutions for Systemic Issues

Our political advocacy is based on the cultivation of deep relationships to many segments of the Black community and to use the support that this provides us as our primary leverage to advocate policy positions that are in the interest of Black people. Our ability to impact policy is based on the years of community organizing and community service that has translated to a base of support that authentically represents the depth and diversity of the Black community in Baltimore.

We also tap into the rich cultural and intellectual resources that reside in our community to form the basis of our intellectual and political analysis. Our fidelity to the Black Radical Tradition and a worldview rooted in Pan Africanism guides the intellectual production that guides our approach to our political advocacy.

a smiling group photo of individuals involved in LBS's legislative efforts

2022 Legislative Agenda

Cannabis

a man's hands stuck through the bars of a jail cell

Criminal Justice

One of the central aspects of the public discourse regarding marijuana legalization is the criminal justice impact of the policy of prohibition.  Below are aspects of the legislation that relate to addressing the criminal justice aspects of marijuana legalization.

  • Policy #1: Vacature of all marijuana-related convictions. This entails vacating marijuana-related convictions from people’s records. This is different from expungement. Expungement is about taking a charge off of someone’s record. Vacatur means that the charge is erased as if it never happened.
  • Policy #2: Allow opportunities for resentencing for convictions pertaining to cannabis related offenses.In cases where possession or distribution of cannabis was a factor that enhanced a sentence, this should be able to be reconsidered.
  • Policy #3: Eliminate legal mechanisms that allow cannabis to be used to criminalize individuals. This includes raising the legal possession limit, and prohibiting law enforcement from using the odor of cannabis as probable cause to search or arrest someone.


Curtailing the phenomena of mass incarceration by ending marijuana prohibition is one important step to repairing the harm that was done to Black and Brown people by the war on drugs. The second step requires that resources are invested directly into the communities that were harmed. There are two elements of marijuana legalization that deal with the distribution of resources. First is creating access to the business opportunities that come with the legalization of this industry. The second is directing tax revenues into the communities most impacted by the war on drugs.

Black Business Participation

The aspect of legalization that is the most complicated is structuring the regulations in such a way that directs the wealth created by the industry into the hands of Black people. There are three main issues that make this such a complicated part of the legislative proposal. First, growers and dispensaries, which are the part of the industry that generates the most wealth, are extremely capital intensive. This puts Black people seeking to get access to that part of the industry at a stark competitive disadvantage given the tremendous wealth disparity between Black folks and white people. 

Secondly, there are very few government interventions that can be made that give the level of explicit preferential treatment to Black people that do not run into constitutional challenges that have plagued attempts at race specific governmental remedies. Lastly, the level of financial opportunity that exists in this industry will invite wealthy people to find ways to circumvent policies that seek to direct resources to Black businesses.  For example, cannabis companies may support shadow businesses that have a Black face as a way to superficially meet “minority” inclusion requirements without actually having truly significant resources to Black people.  In light of this complexity we are advocating for the following policies on business enterprises.

  • Policy #4: Individuals are allowed to grow small amounts of cannabis in their homes for personal use.
  • Policy #5: Micro-businesses are allowed to be licensed to grow smaller amounts of cannabis to sell to the public.
  • Policy #6: Licenses for transportation, security and social consumption sites should have preferences for “minority enterprise.”
  • Policy #7: The process for companies to be awarded commercial licenses should have incentives for companies that do business with “minority enterprises.”


Creating a designation for micro business enterprises to produce and sell small amounts of cannabis can help to stave off the emerging corporate monopoly of the cannabis industry.  Additionally, licensing of the auxiliary industries that have preferences for “minority enterprise” provides a pathway to directing more business opportunities to Black people.

The rubric used to determine licensure for the aspects of the industry that are less capital intensive, i.e., transportation, security, social consumption sites, should heavily weigh Black-owned businesses.  This may still run into constitutional challenges but using a points system that includes additional points for Black-owned companies has been an effective way to circumvent constitutional challenges in other arenas, i.e., college admissions and affirmative action.

a black man and woman laugh while leaning out of a shop window. the sign below them reads "black businesses matter."
cannabis with cannabidiol (cbd) extract on hundred dollar banknote

Tax Revenues

Communities that are most impacted by the war on drugs should get the most access to revenues.  Below is our approach to getting resources in the hands of the community.

  • Policy #8: 60% of the tax revenues from cannabis sales should go back into the community.

The revenue should be allocated directly to local jurisdictions so that the community can have a role in how those resources are distributed. A metric should be used to determine jurisdictions most impacted by the war on drugs, and their portions of the tax revenues should be determined by that metric. The local legislature (county council) will pass an ordinance to determine specifics of how the resources are allocated within that particular jurisdiction.

Baltimore Civilian Review Board

The 2021 Maryland General Assembly passed HB 670 which requires a new system for discipline statewide. It requires the establishment of Police Accountability Boards in every jurisdiction. This board is designated to represent the community in the police disciplinary process and is able to take complaints from the community regarding police abuse. HB 670 also requires the establishment in every jurisdiction of administrative charging committees. This body would review internal affairs investigations of police misconduct and will determine whether an officer will be administratively charged, meaning whether the investigation determines that wrongdoing was done.

The challenge is that there is an existing statute from 1999 that establishes the Baltimore City Civilian Review Board (CRB) that is not contemplated by HB 670. In other words, the requirements imposed by HB 670 regarding the Police Accountability Boards are at odds with the existing CRB structure and statute. We advocate that the requirements regarding the Police Accountability Boards are integrated in the CRB structure. This is the most feasible and streamline way to address the inconsistency of HB 670 and the CRB will also give the CRB more powers that residents have been advocating for.

a close up image of emergency lights on top of a police car in the dark

Approach

  • LBS draws our perspective on the work of police accountability from the Black radical traditions. Law enforcement and the overreaching carceral system are instruments of white supremacy’s assault on the humanity of Black people. From this analysis there are two major guiding priorities that ground our advocacy on police accountability. 
  • The first is that we must weaken the ability of law enforcement to operate insulated from public oversight. The legacy of COINTELPRO, and the role of local law enforcement in undermining and disrupting Black social movements, in addition to its overall lack of regard for the humanity of Black people through police brutality and violation of our rights, requires that the public have mechanisms to oversee law enforcement to deter its ability to operate without pushback from the public. The ability to operate in secret is a large element of the power of law enforcement to function as a threat to the humanity of Black people. This is why LBS has prioritized legislation that allows public access to police disciplinary records.
  • Our second grounding principle of our work on police accountability is community control. The best deterrent of police abuse is giving the community power over the institutions that govern our lives. The call for community control is an extension of the history of Black radicals who understood that the solution to police brutality was not making pleas for white people to recognize our humanity, but to fight for the power to punish those who do harm to our community.
  • Communities that are most impacted by the war on drugs should get the most access to revenues from cannabis. We’re advocating that 60% of the tax revenues from cannabis sales should go back into the community. 
  • The revenue should be allocated directly to local jurisdictions so that the community can have a role in how those resources are distributed. A metric should be used to determine jurisdictions most impacted by the war on drugs, and their portions of the tax revenues should be determined by that metric. The local legislature (county council) will pass an ordinance to determine specifics of how the resources are allocated within that particular jurisdiction.

Past Legislative Work

  • Advocated successfully for amendments to the (MPIA) that would allow for public access for police investigatory records. 
  • Worked to repeal the Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights and replace it with a disciplinary framework that would allow for community oversight.  Even though LEOBR was repealed – and it allowed for more community participation in the internal police disciplinary process – it did not create community oversight.
  • Partnered with Conscious Heads Barbershop to pass legislation that would allow for master barbers to apprentice three barbers at a time instead of just one.  This bill helped to support the workforce development project of Conscious Heads and Reflections Eternal to train more barbers and professionalize the industry.
  • Worked on unsuccessfully to create amendments to Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) that would allow public access to police investigatory records.  This would allow for more public oversight of law enforcement. 
  • Advocated for the creation of a $10 million fund for community based anti-violence programs as an alternative to mandatory minimum legislation.  This bill passed, was vetoed by the Governor and overridden by the legislature.
  • Passed legislation in the Baltimore City Council that established BCYF as an independent and permanent organization. 
  • Fought legislation that would authorize the establishment of a John Hopkins University (JHU) private police force.  This bill ultimately passed, but there continues to be local resistance to it.
  • Advocated for legislation that would create a Baltimore City Anti-Violence grant program as an alternative to the focus creating mandatory minimum legislation.  The justification for this legislation is that investing in Black led, grassroots anti-violence programs are more effective in deterring violence than sentence enhancements. This bill did not pass.
  • Worked with the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s office to successfully pass legislation that would allow the vacatur of convictions that were based on testimony from corrupt police officers.

Fought against a bipartisan crime package that included mandatory minimum sentences – which are ineffective at addressing public safety and fueled the prison industrial complex.

  • Worked to fight against legislation that would nullify a court of appeals ruling on pretrial reform.  The MD Court of Appeals ruled to reduce the use of cash bail and prefer non-financial conditions for release. If bail was assigned, it needed to be affordable to the defendant.  The bail bonds industry put in a bill that would use the legislature to reverse that court of appeals ruling.  LBS, and our partners, worked to defeat the legislation that would have nullified this ruling –  which would lessen the burden of cash bail on poor people in Maryland.
  • Crafted legislation in the Baltimore City Council to begin the process of building the infrastructure for the Baltimore City Children and Youth Fund (BCYF).
  • Opposed and defeated a piece of legislation in the Baltimore City Council that would create a 1 year mandatory minimum for mere possession of a firearm in a public place.

Worked on amendments to LEOBR that were in the bill we advocated for in 2015 – which includes requiring that civilians serve on administrative hearing boards and the non-law enforcement entities are allowed to participate in the internal investigations of police misconduct.  The legislation that passed was a change that allowed civilians to serve on trial boards (though it is not required).  What did not pass was allowing non-law enforcement to participate in the internal investigation of police misconduct.

Worked on amendments to the Law Enforcement Officer Bill of Rights (LEOBR).  The primary focus of our advocacy that year was to require that civilians serve on the trial boards and to allow non-law enforcement entities to be involved in the internal investigations of police misconduct.  This bill did not make it out of committee that year.

Passed Christopher’s Law, named after Christopher Brown who was killed by an off duty police officer in Baltimore County in 2012.  This law required additional racial sensitivity and deescalation training.  Additionally, it required that police officers learn CPR, due to the fact that the officer that killed Christopher Brown could have saved him if he knew how to do CPR.

Pressured the MD legislature and governor to abandon the plan to build a new youth detention center in east Baltimore.