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Massachusetts Governor to Pardon Marijuana Possession Misdemeanor Convictions

BOSTON, MA – Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey has announced a plan to pardon misdemeanor convictions for simple marijuana possession in her state, reports WBUR.

Under the action, which Healey said could impact hundreds of thousands of people, those who have had misdemeanor convictions for the possession of cannabis before March 13 would be eligible for a pardon.

Pardons would not be available to those with criminal cases resolved after March 13; other cannabis-related convictions such as trafficking; convictions from jurisdictions outside Massachusetts, including federal court; or continuances without a finding or other non-conviction dispositions.

Healey called it a “nation-leading effort” and said it would be the most comprehensive action by a governor since President Joe Biden pardoned federal marijuana possession convictions.

“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 Healey.   “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.”

In her announcement at the Massachusetts State House, she called on governors to take similar actions in their states.

“We believe this is the most sweeping cannabis pardon announced by any governor in the United States,” said Healey, “The reason we do this is simple: justice requires it.”

The governor said that along with removing barriers for jobs and housing, pardons would reduce disparities in the state’s criminal justice system.

The pardon only becomes effective if it is approved by the Governor’s Council, the elected eight-member body that approves pardons and judicial confirmations.   The pardon would become effective immediately after the Governor’s Council votes to approve it, although state officials said it could take months to update people’s criminal records. People who need faster proof of the pardon will be able to request a certificate.

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