Massachusetts Committee Schedules Hearing on Bill to Automatically Expunge Marijuana Convictions

Legislation that would facilitate the automatic review and expungement of charges related to marijuana possession and cultivation has been scheduled for a hearing. The bill would also allow those in jail for a marijuana offense that has since been decriminalized to “apply to the sentencing court for an order of discharge and release.”

House Bill 1790 was filed in February by State Representatives Chynah Tyler (D), Lindsay Sabadosa (D) and James Arena-DeRosa (D). Nearly 10 months later, the measure has been scheduled for a public hearing in the legislature’s Joint Committee on The Judiciary.

The hearing will take place on December 19 at 1PM EST.

“Any decriminalized offense that is eligible for expungement as provided by this section, shall be expunged forthwith on request of the petitioner without the necessity of further action by the petitioner or a hearing”, states the text of the measure.

“If the offense was for possession or cultivation of an amount of marijuana decriminalized under section 32L of chapter 94C, section 13 of chapter 94G, or any other law of the commonwealth, any offense for distribution or other offenses arising out of the same incident related to possession or cultivation of said marijuana shall be treated as a single offense for the purposes of this section and shall be expunged along with the decriminalized offense involving possession of marijuana.”

The bill states that the court “shall have the discretion to order an expungement for other grounds pursuant to this section based on what is in the best interests of  justice. Prior to entering an order of expungement pursuant to this section, the court shall hold a hearing if requested by the petitioner or the district attorney. Upon an order of expungement, the court shall enter written findings of fact.”

Furthermore, the bill states that “Any prisoner being held only for sentence under a marijuana offense that is no longer a criminal offense, or held on a probation or parole surrender based only on drug testing or other probation or parole violation regarding the parolee or probationer’s possession or use of marijuana, which is no longer a crime, may apply to the sentencing court for an order of discharge and release.”

Under the bill an initial hearing “shall be held within ten days of court application, to determine whether any basis other than a marijuana law violation exists for the prisoner’s continued detention.” If no other basis exists, “the prisoner shall be released forthwith at the initial hearing”. If other non-marijuana related cause for custody appears to exist, “the prisoner may seek a continuance of the initial hearing to further investigate and present evidence regarding a claim that the only basis for the prisoner’s custody is a conviction or probation or parole surrender for the violation of an expunged or other marijuana offense or the prisoner’s use of marijuana while on probation or parole before such use was decriminalized.”

The full text of House Bill 1790 can be found by clicking here.

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