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Massachusetts Officials Pardon Thousands Of People With Marijuana Convictions In Unanimous Vote On Governor’s Clemency Proposal



Massachusetts officials have unanimously approved the governor’s proposal to pardon thousands of people with misdemeanor marijuana convictions of their records. The relief is effective immediately.

The Governor’s Council voted 7-0 on Wednesday to give consent to Gov. Maura Healey’s (D) clemency plan that she announced last month. The record sealing process will be automated by the state for most eligible people.

Following the vote, the governor said in a press release that “Massachusetts made history today.”

“I’m grateful to the Governor’s Council for their due diligence in approving my request to pardon all state misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions,” she said. “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.”

Councilmember Marilyn Devaney said ahead of the vote that the Council is “sending a message that this administration believes in second chances, and I wish them all good luck who will benefit from this in their endeavors.”

Councilmember Eileen Duff said the move is “important stuff for the body,” adding that members want to “make sure we’re always considering ways to make our criminal justice system more fair and more equitable.”

“Hopefully, with today’s action, it will affect thousands of people in Massachusetts who will no longer have a record for something that is now no longer illegal,” she said.

The vote followed a 90-minute hearing at which the Council discussed the pardon proposal, with testimony from legal experts, public safety officials and people impacted by cannabis criminalization. Nobody spoke out against the clemency action.

When she first proposed the pardons last month, the governor said it would impact “hundreds of thousands” of people with cannabis records, though the exact scope of the relief is unclear.

Massachusetts decriminalized low-level marijuana possession in 2008 and legalized adult-use cannabis in 2016, but the laws did not contain provisions for automatic expungements like those that were included in some other states’ policies.

The governor on Wednesday again gave credit to President Joe Biden for his “leadership on this issue” with his own cannabis clemency actions.

“I’m proud that Massachusetts was able to answer his call to action in this momentous way,” she said. “I hope that other states will follow our lead as we work together to make our communities more fair and equitable.”

The Biden administration has been increasingly promoting both his pardons and marijuana scheduling review directive, signaling an understanding of the popularity of the issue in the lead-up to the November election.

The president touted the actions during his State of the Union address last month, for example, as well as in a proclamation designating April as “Second Chance Month.”

Vice President Kamala Harris also separately met with a group of cannabis pardon recipients at a White House event last month, where she also called on the Drug Administration (DEA) to reschedule marijuana “as quickly as possible.” In a closed-door portion of the meeting, she notably said “we need to legalize marijuana.”

Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,400 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

Back in Massachusetts, a joint legislative committee held a hearing last week to discuss an initiative that would legalize psychedelics that may appear on the November ballot if lawmakers decline to independently enact it first.

The governor also filed a bill last year to create a psychedelics working group to study and make recommendations about the potential therapeutic benefits of substances like psilocybin and MDMA for military veterans.

Since Massachusetts first opened its adult-use cannabis market, licensed retailers have sold more than $7 billion in legal medical and recreational marijuana, according to the latest numbers from the state’s Cannabis Control Commission (CCC).

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Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based managing editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.


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