Close this search box.
Subtotal: $0.00
No products in the cart.

Massachusetts Council Approves Gov. Healey’s Pardon Plan for Marijuana Offenses

After receiving approval from the state’s Governor’s Council, Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey has pardoned thousands of people convicted of misdemeanor drug possession charges.

“Massachusetts made history today,” Healey said in a press release. “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.”

While Healey announced the pardon plan back in March, the Governor’s Council must approve all pardons before they can go into effect. The Council approved Healey’s plan on April 3, clearing the way for thousands of people to receive their pardons.

Who Gets a Pardon?

ABC News reports that the pardons apply to all adults convicted before March 13, 2024, for possession of marijuana or a Class D substance under Massachusetts law. News reports indicate state officials are starting to automatically update criminal records for those who have received pardons. While the pardons go into effect automatically, those with marijuana possession charges on their records can apply online for a certificate showing they’ve received a pardon.

Notably, the pardon does not seal or expunge these charges from people’s criminal records. However, a pardon should make it easier for those with these charges on their records to have the records sealed or expunged.

Pardons Demonstrate Growing Acceptance of Marijuana in Massachusetts

Massachusetts is one of the leading states in the areas of marijuana reform and mitigating the effects of overly harsh drug laws. According to Axios, Massachusetts decriminalized marijuana possession in 2008, well ahead of many other states. The state also approved access to medical marijuana in 2012 and voted to approve recreational use among adults in 2016. While it took another two years for the first recreational retail shops to open, these changes demonstrated a striking shift in attitudes among the Massachusetts populace.

Massachusetts Pardon Follows Actions by President Biden

Healey’s plan is one of the largest moves by state officials since President Joe Biden called for governors nationwide to pardon people convicted of minor drug possession crimes. After issuing thousands of pardons in the fall of 2022, President Biden expanded the pardons in December 2023. After the second round of pardons, Biden urged state officials to follow his lead.

“Just as no one should be in a federal prison solely due to the use or possession of marijuana, no one should be in a local jail or state prison for that reason, either,” Biden said at the time.

While other states have yet to implement pardons on the scale of Massachusetts, many state governments have taken smaller steps or are looking into mass pardons for those convicted of low-level drug offenses. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has issued about 4,000 pardons for marijuana offenders in recent years. In Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear has taken steps to pardon those with minor possession charges on their records, though Kentucky’s efforts have not yet reached the scale of those in Massachusetts or Colorado.

Why Marijuana Possession Pardons Matter

While a pardon does not erase someone’s criminal history from their record, it can still make a significant impact on people’s lives. Misdemeanor drug possession charges, though seemingly minor, can have profound and lasting effects. They can hinder people’s ability to secure employment, as many employers hesitate to hire people with a criminal record. This barrier to employment contributes to a cycle of poverty and limits opportunities for economic advancement.

Furthermore, a misdemeanor charge can restrict access to educational opportunities and financial aid, putting higher education out of reach for many people. It can also affect housing options, as individuals with criminal records often face challenges in securing leases, further exacerbating issues of homelessness and instability.

A pardon, while not sealing or expunging a criminal record, acts as a formal forgiveness from the state, significantly mitigating these effects. It can improve someone’s chances of finding employment, as a pardon may positively influence an employer’s perception. Additionally, a pardon can open up educational opportunities previously hindered by the charge, allowing for personal and professional growth. While the charge remains visible, the pardon itself signals a shift towards recognizing the disproportionate impact of marijuana convictions and the importance of giving individuals a second chance. This acknowledgment is a crucial step towards rectifying past injustices, especially for communities disproportionately affected by overly harsh drug laws.

Marijuana Reform Movement Continues to Gain Strength Nationwide

According to a report from Time Magazine, 38 states and the District of Columbia now have medical marijuana programs in place. Furthermore, 24 states and D.C. have legalized adult recreational marijuana use.

While federal legalization in the U.S. is a long way off, the Biden Administration has taken small steps that could ease the path going forward. According to Bloomberg, the Department of Health and Human Services recently called on the Drug Enforcement Administration to move marijuana to a different tier under the federal Controlled Substances Act. Currently, marijuana is in Schedule I, the most restrictive tier under the CSA. Schedule I drugs are said to have no medical purpose and a high potential for abuse. Moving marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III, as the Department of Health and Human Services has proposed, could pave the way for federal decriminalization or legalization.

The legalization of marijuana has broad support nationwide, according to opinion polls. A poll from the Pew Research Center in 2022 found that 59 percent of respondents supported the legalization of recreational marijuana use for adults. The percentage of Americans who support medical marijuana but not recreational use is 30 percent, according to the Pew poll. While Pew notes that younger adults are more likely to favor legalization compared with older adults, the trend toward legalization is likely to continue in the coming years.

Cannabutter Digest Has All the Latest Marijuana News You Need

Whether you’re looking for news on marijuana legalization or a great recipe for cannabis food or drink products, Cannabutter Digest has you covered. Check back with us regularly for the latest newsrecipesproduct reviews, and more.

  • No products in the cart.