Healey announced pardons for simple possession of cannabis

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POSITIVE
In a move she described as “nation-leading” in scope and ambition, Gov.
Maura Healey on Wednesday unveiled plans to pardon all people convicted of simple marijuana possession in Massachusetts.
If approved, the pardon would forgive all state court misdemeanor convictions for possession of marijuana before March 13, 2024.
It would not apply to charges of distribution, trafficking, or operating a motor vehicle under the influence.
Healey’s office said the pardon could affect “hundreds of thousands” of people in Massachusetts, though the exact number is unknown.
“The reason we do this is simple: justice requires it,” Healey said.
She called the plan “the most sweeping cannabis pardon announced by any governor in the United States.”
Healey said the pardon will be automatic for most people.
Those who need proof of the pardon before their record is updated, or who believe they may have been passed over, can apply using an online form.
The announcement was met with applause from state elected officials, criminal justice reform advocates, people impacted by simple possession convictions and members of law enforcement who joined Healey for the announcement on the grand staircase inside the Massachusetts State House.
The plan still needs sign-off from the Governor’s Council, the elected eight-member body that approves pardons and judicial confirmations.
Attorney General Andrea Campbell and Governor Maura Healey walk together toward the press conference to announce Healey’s executive action to pardon misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions in Massachusetts.
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)Healey said the decision was about equity, noting that communities of color have been disproportionately targeted by law enforcement for drug possession.
A 2016 report from the ACLU of Massachusetts found that while Black people represented only 8% of the state’s population, they comprised 24% of marijuana possession arrests.
“We can be certain that this pardon will redress some of the harm those disparities have caused in Massachusetts and we’ll continue to do all that we can to eliminate racial injustice throughout our systems,” Healey said.
Healey in her 2022 campaign for governor had promised to pardon state convictions for simple marijuana possession.
This week’s announcement came after President Biden ordered pardons for people with federal simple possession convictions, and encouraged governors across the country to do the same.
Maura Healey answers questions from the news media at the State House Wednesday.
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)Past marijuana convictions and charges — even charges that were eventually dismissed — can show up on background checks, making it hard for those affected to secure jobs or housing.
This pardon does not cover people who have been arrested or charged without a conviction, according to Healey’s office; those records will still exist.
Nor does it mean the conviction will completely disappear from somebody’s record.
Instead, the pardon will be reflected alongside the original offense.
“You can pardon somebody all you want, but if there’s still a paper trail for the conduct, and there’s still stigma attached to the conduct, somebody can still find it,” said Chris Dearborn, a law professor at Suffolk University and the director of the Suffolk Defenders Program.
Dearborn said expungement is the only way to truly remove a criminal conviction from the record.
But he added Healey’s high-profile blanket pardon “sends a really powerful and appropriate message.”People in Massachusetts already are able to expunge certain marijuana-related convictions, following a landmark 2018 criminal justice reform law.
But advocates criticize the process as bureaucratic and inaccessible, and multiple reports find that it’s rarely used.
“I hope the next step will be automatic expungement to actually clear these records,” said Shaleen Title, director of the Parabola Center for Law and Policy and a former commissioner of the state Cannabis Control Commission.
Devin Alexander spoke at the pardoning announcement and said his arrest for marijuana possession when he was 17 derailed his plans to join the U.S. Air Force.
The Quincy native was later part of the state Cannabis Control Commission’s Social Equity Program, which gives state residents affected by the war on drugs training to work in the cannabis industry.
Alexander said he appreciated the governor’s move, but that it is “way past due.”
“Pardoning for simple possession is great, but it’s just the first step,” he said.
“We need to get to a point where we pardon individuals for all cannabis-related crimes.”
Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said Healey’s pardon is an example of how the state has been reforming the criminal justice system.
“We’ve been working really hard in Massachusetts to be much more thoughtful about how can we really be smart about preserving public safety, but at the same time lessening the impact of the criminal system on people’s lives,” Ryan told WBUR.
“This is an

In a step that she called “nation-leading” in terms of its scope and ultimate goal, Gov. On Wednesday, Maura Healey announced her intention to pardon everyone found guilty of possessing small amounts of marijuana in Massachusetts.

All misdemeanor convictions for marijuana possession in state courts rendered prior to March 13, 2024 would be erased if the pardon is granted. Charges of distribution, trafficking, or driving while intoxicated would not be covered by it.

The pardon may impact “hundreds of thousands” of Massachusetts residents, according to Healey’s office, though the precise figure is uncertain.

Justice demands it, that is the only reason Healy gave for doing this. “The most comprehensive cannabis pardon announced by any governor in the United States,” she described the proposal. “.

According to Healy, most people will automatically receive a pardon. Those who feel they may have been overlooked or who require verification of the pardon before their record is updated can apply online.

Applause erupted from state legislators, supporters of criminal justice reform, victims of simple possession convictions, and law enforcement personnel who joined Healey on the stately staircase of the Massachusetts State House for the announcement.

The eight elected members of the Governor’s Council, who grant pardons and judicial confirmations, must still approve the plan.

Governor Maura Healey walks alongside Attorney General Andrea Campbell as they head to the press conference to declare Healey’s executive action to pardon Massachusetts misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions. (Jesse Costa/WBUR).

Citing the disproportionate targeting of communities of color by law enforcement for drug possession, Healey stated that the decision was about equity. Despite making up only 8% of the state’s population, Black people were responsible for 24% of marijuana possession arrests, according to a 2016 report from the ACLU of Massachusetts.

“We’ll keep working to eradicate racial injustice across all of our systems, and we’re confident that this pardon will at least partially address the harm that those disparities have caused in Massachusetts,” Healey stated.

Healy pledged to overturn state convictions for simple marijuana possession during her 2022 gubernatorial campaign. The announcement this week followed President Biden’s order to pardon individuals convicted of federal simple possession offenses and his encouragement to governors nationwide to follow suit.

Gov. Maura Healey responds to inquiries from the press on Wednesday at the State House. (Jesse Costa/WBUR).

It may be difficult for people with marijuana convictions and charges in the past—even ones that were eventually dropped—to get employment or housing because of background checks. According to Healy’s office, those who have been arrested or charged without a conviction are not covered by this pardon; their records will remain on file.

Furthermore, it doesn’t imply that the conviction will vanish entirely from the person’s file. As opposed to that, the original offense and the pardon will coexist.

Chris Dearborn, a law professor at Suffolk University and the director of the Suffolk Defenders Program, said, “You can pardon somebody all you want, but if there’s still a paper trail for the conduct, and there’s still stigma attached to the conduct, somebody can find it.”.

According to Dearborn, the only effective way to completely erase a criminal conviction from a person’s record is through expungement. Healey’s well-publicized blanket pardon, he continued, “sends a really powerful and appropriate message.”. “.

Following a historic 2018 criminal justice reform law, people in Massachusetts are already able to have certain convictions related to marijuana expunged. Advocates, however, find that the process is infrequently used and criticize it for being bureaucratic and unapproachable.

Former state Cannabis Control Commission commissioner Shaleen Title, director of the Parabola Center for Law and Policy, expressed her hope that the next step will be automatic expungement to truly clear these records.

During the pardoning announcement, Devin Alexander stated that his arrest for marijuana possession when he was 17 had thwarted his plans to enter the U.S. S. The Air Force. Later, the native of Quincy was included in the Social Equity Program of the state Cannabis Control Commission, which prepares people impacted by the war on drugs for careers in the cannabis sector through training.

Although Alexander acknowledged the governor’s action, he felt it was “way past due.”. “.”.

He remarked, “It’s great to pardon for simple possession, but it’s just the first step.”. The time must come when all offenses involving cannabis must be forgiven from an individual. “.

Marian Ryan, the Middlesex District Attorney, stated that Healey’s pardon serves as an illustration of the state’s efforts to modernize the criminal justice system.

“In Massachusetts, we have been putting a lot of effort into being much more deliberate about how we can really be smart about maintaining public safety, while at the same time minimizing the negative effects that the criminal justice system has on people’s lives,” Ryan told WBUR. “This is a crucial component of that. “.

The Governor’s Council should “swiftly” approve the blanket pardon, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley said in a statement, endorsing Healey’s action.

Pressley stated, “I am thankful that Massachusetts and our Governor are taking important steps, but our work to transform our criminal justice system to center justice, equity, and decarceration is ongoing.”.

During Healey’s announcement on Wednesday, a number of the Governor’s Council members stood alongside her. Following the speech, council member Paul DePalo declared, “It’s the right thing to do.”. Although I am not able to speak for the other members, I am aware that I am not the only one who finds this exciting. ****.

The next meeting of the Governor’s Council is scheduled for the end of the month.

Healey’s use of the pardon power in her office differs significantly from that of her recent predecessors. In her first year in office, Healey pardoned 13 people, the highest number since former governor Michael Dukakis. Gov. During his eight years in office, Charlie Baker granted pardons to fifteen individuals.

In 2016, recreational marijuana use was approved by Massachusetts voters through a ballot question. Since then, the state’s gross sales of cannabis have exceeded $5.65 billion.

More reporting has been added to this story. Simón Rios and Katie Cole of WBUR contributed to this story.

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