Apr 3, 2024 - News

Massachusetts pardons all misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions

Illustration of a gavel, but the handle is a marijuana joint.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Gov. Maura Healey has pardoned potentially hundreds of thousands of people with misdemeanor simple marijuana possession convictions on their records.

Why it matters: Healey's mass pardon is the widest act of clemency for drug offenders any governor has performed following President Joe Biden's call for mass state-level pardons last year.

What they're saying: "Thousands of Massachusetts residents will now see their records cleared of this charge, which will help lower the barriers they face when seeking housing, education or a job," Healey said in a statement.

The latest: The Governor's Council, an eight-member panel that vets judicial appointments and pardons, approved Healey's plan Wednesday.

How it works: The pardon is effective immediately and state officials are beginning to update records databases.

  • Anyone who wants a certificate proving the pardon can apply online.

Flashback: The Commonwealth's views on cannabis have shifted starkly the last two decades.

  • Voters decriminalized marijuana possession in 2008. Medical access was approved in 2012 and full recreational cannabis was legalized in 2016.
  • The first recreational retail shops opened in November 2018.

The intrigue: Healey herself claims to have "evolved" on the issue since opposing legalization when she was attorney general before becoming governor.

The big picture: Healey's are the first major state pardons since Biden pardoned similar crimes committed on federal land in December.

  • "Too many lives have been upended because of our failed approach to marijuana. It's time that we right these wrongs," Biden said at the time.

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