Massachusetts Council Approves Governor’s Plan to Pardon Hundreds of Thousands of Marijuana Offenders

The Governor’s Council has officially given approval to a plan introduced last month by Governor Maura T. Healey that would pardon misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions.

The Council voted 7 to 0 today to pass the plan, which Governor Healey calls “the most comprehensive action by a governor since President Joe Biden pardoned federal marijuana possession convictions and called on governors to take similar actions in their states”. Healey says the move could impact hundreds of thousands of people.

Under the approved plan, most people will not need to take any action to have their criminal records updated. The pardons will apply to all adult Massachusetts state court misdemeanor convictions before March 13, 2024 for possession of marijuana (sometimes referred to as possession of a “Class D substance”).

“Nobody should face barriers to getting a job, housing or an education because of an old misdemeanor marijuana conviction that they would not be charged for today,” said Governor Healey last month. “We’re taking this nation-leading action as part of our commitment to using the clemency process to advance fairness and equity in our criminal justice system. We’re grateful for President Biden’s leadership on this at the federal level and proud to answer his call to take action in the states.”

Following the Council’s vote, Governor Healey said “Massachusetts made history today.”

Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll last month said “Marijuana laws have significantly changed over the past decade, and it’s essential that our criminal justice system adjusts with them. Governor Healey’s proposed pardon represents an important step toward righting historic wrongs, particularly around our country’s misguided War on Drugs. We thank the Governor’s Council for their careful consideration of this recommendation and look forward to continuing our progress to make Massachusetts a more fair and equitable home for all.”

In October 2022, President Biden issued a presidential proclamation that pardoned many federal and D.C. offenses for simple marijuana possession offenses. In December 2023, the President expanded that pardon to include more offenses, while calling on Governors to take action to pardon marijuana convictions in their states.

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