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Massachusetts Governor to Pardon Marijuana Possession Misdemeanor Convictions

Most people will not need to take any action to have their criminal records updated.

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Governor Maura T. Healey today announced that she is taking executive action to pardon misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions in Massachusetts. If approved by the Governor’s Council, this would be 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. It could impact hundreds of thousands of people. 

If approved, Governor Healey's pardon will apply to all eligible convictions, and most people will not need to take any action to have their criminal records updated. It would 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. “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.” 

“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,” said Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll. “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 He also issued a call to Governors to take action to pardon marijuana convictions in their states and, in the State of the Union last week, the President directed his Cabinet to review the federal classification of marijuana. 

Governor Healey has already taken historic action on pardons. She became the first Massachusetts Governor in decades to recommend pardons in her first year in office. She has pardoned a total of 13 people to date. She also issued new clemency guidelines to center fairness and equity in the criminal justice system. 

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