In a groundbreaking move, Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey unveiled plans earlier in March to pardon individuals convicted of simple marijuana possession, potentially impacting hundreds of thousands of residents in the state. If approved by the Governor’s Council, the pardons would extend to all prior adult misdemeanor convictions for marijuana possession.

“We’re talking about hundreds of thousands of convictions,” Governor Healey emphasized, describing the initiative as a sweeping and automatic pardon for all misdemeanor convictions related to marijuana possession. She reassured citizens that they would not need to take any action to receive the pardon, and their records would be automatically cleared.

This move by Governor Healey follows the lead of President Joe Biden, who pardoned thousands of individuals convicted of simple marijuana possession on federal lands at the end of last year. President Biden’s action spurred governors across the nation to consider similar measures. Healey’s announcement marks Massachusetts as taking one of the strongest steps in addressing past marijuana convictions to date.

Attorney General Andrea Campbell underscored the significance of the pardon in addressing racial disparities in marijuana-related arrests. She noted that Black individuals in Massachusetts are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than their White counterparts, despite similar usage rates.

The proposed pardons could potentially remove significant barriers to housing and employment for those with prior marijuana convictions. Additionally, it aligns with efforts to promote racial equity in the criminal justice system.

The governor’s office clarified that the pardons would apply retroactively to convictions for marijuana possession, excluding cases after March 13 and other related offenses like driving under the influence. Furthermore, juvenile marijuana possession cases would remain unaffected.

The announcement signifies a notable shift in Healey’s stance on marijuana legalization since Massachusetts residents voted to legalize adult recreational use of marijuana in 2016. Healey, who initially opposed the initiative, expressed hope that her willingness to evolve would resonate with voters.

If approved by the Governor’s Council, the pardons would mark a significant milestone in rectifying past injustices related to marijuana convictions and advancing criminal justice reform in Massachusetts.

Read the whole article from CBS here.

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