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Massachusetts governor to pardon "hundreds of thousands" with marijuana convictions

Gov. Healey announces plan to pardon all simple marijuana convictions in Massachusetts
Gov. Healey announces plan to pardon all simple marijuana convictions in Massachusetts 02:22

BOSTON - Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey announced plans on Wednesday to pardon those in the state who have been convicted of simple marijuana possession. If approved by the Governor's Council, the pardons would apply to all prior adult misdemeanor convictions for marijuana possession. 

"We're talking about hundreds of thousands of convictions," Healey said. "It's a sweeping, blanket pardon - all misdemeanor convictions for possession."

Healey said the pardons, if approved by the council, will be "automatic."

"People do not need to do anything," she said. "You will be pardoned and it will be cleared from your record." 

Massachusetts following Biden's lead on marijuana pardons

At the end of last year, President Joe Biden pardoned thousands convicted of simple marijuana possession on federal lands and called on governors to do the same. 

Healey said her pardon announcement is the strongest step taken by any state so far. Rhode Island in 2022 enacted legislation providing for the automatic expungement of prior marijuana possession charges. 

The move could remove barriers to housing and employment for those with marijuana convictions. It was also touted as push for racial equity.

"In Massachusetts, Black people are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than White residents and White people," Attorney General Andrea Campbell said. "And that is not because they engage more in the possession of marijuana." 

How the Massachusetts marijuana pardons would work

The governor's office says the pardon "acts as forgiveness for a conviction from your criminal record." It would not apply to any marijuana convictions after March 13, or other related offenses like driving under the influence. Juvenile marijuana possession cases would not be impacted either.

Massachusetts residents voted to legalize adult recreational use of marijuana in 2016 - an initiative Healey was opposed to at the time.

"Hopefully people want a governor who is willing to evolve," Healey said Wednesday.

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