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Following the lead of President Joe Biden’s pardon of simple marijuana possession, Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healy recently announced plans to issue a series of pardons for those convicted of misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions. In doing so, the governor stated that “[n]obody 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.”

To be effective, the state Governor’s Council must approve Healey’s decision.

According to reports, House Speaker Ronald J. Mariano (D-Quincy) said that the announcement was “consistent with the Legislature’s intent during the passage of the 2018 criminal justice reform law, which was updated in 2022 when the Legislature passed further cannabis reforms, that allowed residents to seek expungements for convictions that are no longer crimes following voter-approved reforms.”

The pardons are clearly welcome news to those who believe meaningful marijuana reforms must include not only liberalization of marijuana policies but also a recognition of what many believe are the deleterious impact of marijuana policies over the past half century. On the other hand, many who support liberalization efforts remain reluctant to extend those efforts to policies that may appear to be soft on crime. We have discussed this debate at Budding Trends over the past few years and noted how this issue has been a roadblock to achieving comprehensive marijuana reform at the federal level. There is no doubt that Healey’s announcement is welcome news to those slated to receive a pardon and their loved ones, as well as those who believe social equity is a critical component to marijuana reform. Whether the announcement will move the needle on the national debate, particularly in a presidential election year, remains to be seen. Rest assured, your friends at Budding Trends will be here to provide updates along the way.