Press Release

Press Release  Governor Healey Announces Nation-Leading Effort to Pardon Marijuana Possession Misdemeanor Convictions

Most comprehensive action by a Governor following President Biden’s call for marijuana pardons in the states
For immediate release:
  • Governor Maura Healey and Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll

Media Contact   for Governor Healey Announces Nation-Leading Effort to Pardon Marijuana Possession Misdemeanor Convictions

Karissa Hand, Press Secretary

Boston — Governor Maura T. Healey today announced that she is taking executive action to pardon misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions in Massachusetts. If approved by the Governor’s Council, this would be the most comprehensive action by a governor since President Joe Biden pardoned federal marijuana possession convictions and called on governors to take similar actions in their states. It could impact hundreds of thousands of people. 

If approved, Governor Healey's pardon will apply to all eligible convictions, and most people will not need to take any action to have their criminal records updated. It would apply to all adult Massachusetts state court misdemeanor convictions before March 13, 2024 for possession of marijuana (sometimes referred to as possession of a “Class D substance”). 

“Nobody 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,” said Governor Healey. “We’re taking this nation-leading action as part of our commitment to using the clemency process to advance fairness and equity in our criminal justice system. We’re grateful for President Biden’s leadership on this at the federal level and proud to answer his call to take action in the states.” 

“Marijuana laws have significantly changed over the past decade, and it’s essential that our criminal justice system adjusts with them. Governor Healey’s proposed pardon represents an important step toward righting historic wrongs, particularly around our country’s misguided War on Drugs,” said Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll. “We thank the Governor’s Council for their careful consideration of this recommendation and look forward to continuing our progress to make Massachusetts a more fair and equitable home for all.” 

In October 2022, President Biden issued a presidential proclamation that pardoned many federal and D.C. offenses for simple marijuana possession offenses. In December 2023, the President expanded that pardon to include more offenses He also issued a call to Governors to take action to pardon marijuana convictions in their states and, in the State of the Union last week, the President directed his Cabinet to review the federal classification of marijuana. 

Governor Healey has already taken historic action on pardons. She became the first Massachusetts Governor in decades to recommend pardons in her first year in office. She has pardoned a total of 13 people to date. She also issued new clemency guidelines to center fairness and equity in the criminal justice system. 

The Governor’s Office has developed an FAQ about this proposed pardon. 

Statements of Support 

Attorney General Andrea Joy Campbell: 

“I applaud the Healey-Driscoll administration's efforts to rectify historic racial disparities, including with this proposed pardon, and President Biden’s leadership at the federal level on the same issue. Convictions for simple marijuana possession – which someone could not be charged with today – have led to the disproportionate incarceration of Black and brown people and made it nearly impossible for them to obtain a job, housing, educational opportunities and more. As the AG's Office also works to address injustice and close the racial wealth gap, this proposed pardon meaningfully moves the Commonwealth in the right direction.” 

House Speaker Ronald J. Mariano (D- Quincy): 

“The decision from Governor Healey to pardon certain marijuana convictions is the right one, as it is another step towards rectifying decades of injustices stemming from the criminalization of cannabis. This announcement is 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.” 

Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland): 

“An equitable Commonwealth is one where a misdemeanor cannabis conviction does not stand in the way of someone moving forward with their life with a new job, home, or education. The legislature has worked hard to expand and expedite expungement, and I am elated that the Healey-Driscoll Administration is moving to pardon misdemeanor cannabis convictions. This is the right thing to do.” 

Joint Committee on the Judiciary House Chair Michael S. Day: 

“I applaud Governor Healey's decision to issue pardons on these marijuana convictions. These pardons will allow individuals to move forward in their lives without the stain of criminal convictions for actions that are now legal. The Governor's decision is a welcome move in our continued efforts to make our criminal justice system more equitable to all of our residents.” 

Newton Police Chief John Carmichael:  

“The Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association stands with Governor Healey and her administration to offer a fair and just response to those previously impacted by simple marijuana possession offenses. Governor Healey’s pardon of misdemeanor marijuana possession offenses creates an equitable playing field for all and allows past convictions to align with the modern day laws of the Commonwealth.” 

Hampden County Sheriff Nick Cocchi, President of the Massachusetts Sheriff’s Association: 

“As Massachusetts sheriffs, we believe in giving people the tools and the opportunities to make the most of a second chance. I applaud Governor Healey for recognizing, due to legalization, the burden created by the simple possession charges and taking this step to right the wrongs of the past. This will give thousands of people a clean record upon which to build a better tomorrow for themselves, their family and their community.” 

Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni, Massachusetts District Attorneys Association President: 

“The Massachusetts District Attorneys Association stands with Governor Healey and Lt. Governor Driscoll in issuing pardons for those who were convicted of simple possessory marijuana offenses before these same charges were decriminalized in 2016. This step will deliver fairness and equity for those whose minor crimes came before legislative action, and in so doing, will allow people to move forward with their lives without the burden of a conviction for something that is now entirely lawful.” 

Carol Rose, Executive Director of the ACLU of Massachusetts: 

“Because of this pardon recommendation, many people in Massachusetts may get a second chance. It means people will no longer be punished for behavior that is now legal in our state, and will face fewer barriers to housing, jobs, education, student loans, and stability. We thank Governor Healey for her leadership on this life-changing issue.” 

Abrigal Forrester, Chief Executive Officer, The Center for Teen Empowerment: 

“The decision by the Governor to exonerate previous marijuana charges speaks volumes about how leadership can repair the historical harm done to disenfranchised communities. Specifically, communities of color. This is one big step in the right direction of legislative reform. However, this reform is coming decades after individuals and communities were impacted by marijuana laws in Massachusetts. Kudos to Governor Healey for opening up the doors of opportunity for those who were harmed and setback by this law.” 

Patty DeJuneas, DeJuneas Law, LLC: 

“Governor Healey's willingness to use her clemency powers in this way will break down barriers that have long prevented families from thriving. With better employment and housing opportunities, parents can provide more resources for their children; families will have access to better housing and thus better schools; women can leave their abusers; and thousands of Massachusetts residents will be freed from the stigma of a criminal record.” 

Pauline Quirion, Director, CORI & Re-entry Project, Greater Boston Legal Services: 

“The Governor is to be applauded for these pardons that start to address the damage caused by the failed war on drugs in low-income communities of color related to past criminalization of cannabis and racially disproportionate arrests. Decriminalization of cannabis coupled with pardons when viewed through a racial lens is a means of mitigating racism in the criminal legal system and giving people the second chances they need to succeed. In practice, any criminal record, no matter how old or how minor creates barriers to jobs and other opportunities. Pardons especially matter where record sealing simply is not enough because an employer or occupational licensor is granted access to the record by state law. The Governor’s action today is part of a much needed effort to widen access to jobs and professional success, including those who need second chances.” 

Josiane Martinez, Chair of the Governor’s Council on Latino Empowerment and CEO of Archipelago Strategies Group: 

“The War on Drugs caught a disproportionate number of Black and Brown lives in its dragnet, leading to vast inequities. Many of those sentenced were young, urban residents who lacked legal resources, causing great strains on their families and livelihoods. I am thankful to Governor Healey for taking this bold step forward to make Massachusetts more equitable.” 

Tanisha Sullivan, Chair of the Black Empowerment Council, President of NAACP New England state area conference: 

“Fairness and justice require the action taken by Governor Healey today. Today’s executive action will help remove economic barriers and allow more individuals and families across Massachusetts achieve economic stability.” 

Gladys Vega, Vice Chair and Executive Director of La Colaborativa: 

“I applaud Governor Healey for making our criminal justice system more fair and proposing a nation leading effort to pardon people for simple cannabis possession. It’s important to update our laws and norms because no one should be penalized for something that is now legal.” 

Anthony Richard, Vice Chair of the Black Empowerment Council and Vice President of Equitable Business Development at Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency:  

"No one should be unfairly restricted from employment, or securing housing due to a past conviction for an act that is no longer deemed criminal. I commend Governor Healey for championing these measures to enhance equity throughout Massachusetts." 

Anthony J. Benedetti, Chief Counsel, Committee for Public Counsel Services: 

“We would like to thank Governor Healey for her forward-looking decision to issue pardons to all people convicted of simple marijuana possession. This is yet another acknowledgement that the war on drugs was a failed campaign – one that continues to haunt so many of our clients. Today’s decision will likely have a positive effect on thousands of people. For years, we have seen the devastating consequences of these convictions, and we are grateful that our governor has taken a positive step to remove these burdens.” 

Ava Callender Concepcion, Acting Chair of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission: 

“Governor Healey’s announcement today recognizes that the War on Drugs did real harm to individuals and families in our Commonwealth—especially Black and brown residents—and the collateral consequences remain ongoing long after marijuana legalization. I applaud this critical step to address the devastating effects of those failed policies and look forward to the Commission’s continued partnership to ensure opportunities are available for disproportionately impacted communities.” 

Patty Garin, Co-Director of Northeastern University School of Law Prisoners’ Rights Clinic, MBA Task Force On Clemency: 

“With these pardons, Governor Healey is sending a clear message about the importance of equity and common sense in the criminal legal system, two qualities often lacking, which she is promoting. This is a welcome step forward.” 


Media Contact   for Governor Healey Announces Nation-Leading Effort to Pardon Marijuana Possession Misdemeanor Convictions

  • Governor Maura Healey and Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll 

    Since taking office, Governor Healey and Lieutenant Governor Driscoll’s top priority has been building a Massachusetts that’s competitive, equitable, and affordable for every family, worker, and business.
  • Help Us Improve  with your feedback

    Please do not include personal or contact information.