April 2. 2024

The Governor of Massachusetts plans to pardon anyone convicted of simple marijuana possession in the state. According to the governor’s office, this could mean pardoning hundreds of thousands. However, the state does not have exact information on how many people qualify for the pardon. 

The governor’s office also explained that pardons do not apply to other marijuana-related charges. For example, those charged for driving under the influence will not qualify. Anyone with charges related to the distribution of marijuana will also face disqualification for the pardon.

Those who did not receive a pardon for marijuana convictions will find this information still in their background reports. As a result, potential employers or landlords may still access these records and use them when deciding the individual’s eligibility.

Governor Healey will be the second governor to pardon people for simple marijuana possession. This decision is in response to President Biden’s pardons for simple marijuana possession in Washington, DC. At the time, the President asked all state governors to do the same.

The first to follow President Biden’s example was the governor of Oregon. She pardoned people in her state with convictions for simple marijuana possession of no more than one ounce, resulting in over 47,000 pardons. In December of 2023, President Biden pardoned those with convictions for using or attempting to possess marijuana on federal land. He asked again for Governors to issue simple pardons. 

The Massachusetts Governor stated that pardons would be automatic for most individuals. As such, individuals do not need to do anything to update their criminal records. She also explained what to do when someone needs to prove they received a pardon before the state updates their records. Anyone may use an online form to request proof. She also encouraged those who felt passed over for a pardon to apply online for proof.

The plan has received widespread support among elected officials, criminal justice reform advocates, and others. Unfortunately, issuing these pardons may not be straightforward. For example, the plan must receive support from the Governor’s Council to approve the pardons. This council is an eight-member group tasked with reviewing pardons.

Following a vote to approve the measure, Governor Healey stated that the pardons would become effective immediately. However, updating an individual’s records may take longer to reflect the change. Governor Healey acknowledged that “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.” As such, she voiced gratitude for President Biden’s actions and her desire to answer his call to action.

Information provided here is for educational and informational purposes only and should not constitute as legal advice. We recommend you contact your own legal counsel for any questions regarding your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.