April 22, 2024

Massachusetts has decided to pardon offenders charged with simple marijuana possession. As announced by Governor Healey, “I am exercising my executive power as governor under the Massachusetts Constitution, subject to approval by the Governor’s Council, to pardon all misdemeanor convictions for marijuana possession on record in our state.”

This is the first state to do so since President Biden decided to grant pardons to federal offenders charged with simple marijuana possession. Though the Governor’s Council approved the pardons and unanimously supported the effort, they voiced questions on the matter. Such questions included concerns about whether this was enough help for those affected by past marijuana laws.

According to the governor, anyone convicted of misdemeanors for possession of marijuana could qualify for the pardon. However, she emphasized that qualified records included those before the day her letter of request reached the council. The Lieutenant Governor also explained what would happen due to the Governor Council’s vote.

Those charged with misdemeanors of possessing marijuana before March 13, 2024, will see their crimes immediately cleared. As such, anyone receiving a pardon will see it done without taking personal action. Anyone who would like a Certificate of Pardon can request one.

The court system will update all charges of marijuana possession to show the pardoned status. This process involves updating records for approximately 70,000 to 100,000 people. As such, the Massachusetts trial court indicated this could take months. Though concerns have arisen, the court did not give an opinion on the pardon plan. Regardless, they are ready to begin updating the records.

The pardons do not remove the charges from an individual’s record. As such, the council voiced concerns about simply marking the records as pardoned. When searching for actions to help affected individuals, Councilor Kennedy asked District Attorney Kevin Hayden for ideas. District Attorney Hayden recommended they consider expungement. Councilor Kennedy has taken this into consideration and also encouraged the council to do more to inform affected individuals about their pardoned records.

Councilor Terrence Kennedy commented on a scenario concerning the pardons. In this example, Councilor Kennedy explained how an individual’s records would still show the pardoned conviction. Despite the information mentioning the pardoned status, most people with marijuana convictions would not know about the changed status.

These pardons are only for simple marijuana possession. As such, they do not apply to other charges made in conjunction with possession, possession with intent to distribute, or any other higher-level charges in marijuana trafficking. According to Governor Healey, the pardon will take effect immediately.

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.