Massachusetts Governor Healey Declares Intent to Pardon Cannabis Convictions

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A far-reaching pardon of cannabis possession convictions has the potential to affect hundreds of thousands of people in the state.

A March 13, 2024, a press release from Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey announced the one-time pardoning of potentially hundreds of thousands of misdemeanor cannabis charges in the state (1). Specifically, convictions of state court misdemeanor possession of cannabis convictions —also known as possession of a “Class D substance” —before March 13, 2024, are the only convictions eligible for this pardon (1). Governor Healey held a press conference coinciding with the press release (2).

“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,” Governor Healey stated in the press release (1). “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.”

In his State of the Union speech earlier this month, President Joe Biden referenced his 2022 call for the reexamination of the scheduling of cannabis and for governors to grant pardons for cannabis possession similar to the ones that he had granted at the federal level in 2022 and 2023 (1,3).


Nearly a dozen answers to anticipated questions in response to the announcement were listed on an adjoining frequently asked questions page, including the purpose of the pardon (1). Recognizing that cannabis laws have changed in Massachusetts, it explained, the main goal of this pardon is addressing historical injustices (1). “Through this pardon, the Governor is seeking to lift barriers that people with old marijuana possession convictions face, including to housing, jobs, and educational opportunities,” it also stated (1). Cannabis for recreational purposes was legalized in the state in 2016 (2).

Supporting statements from more than a dozen individuals and organizations— including the Attorney General, House Speaker, Director of the Massachusetts ACLU, President of NAACP New England state area conference, and more— were included in the governor’s press release (1).

“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,” read the statement of support from Ava Callender Concepcion, Acting Chair of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (1). “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.”

The pardons will take effect immediately and most people will not have to take any action for their records to reflect the pardon (1,2). The pardon will appear beside the cannabis possession conviction on an individual’s record and an online application will be available for those who need to provide proof of the pardon (4). As the AP noted, a pardon is not an expungement of records, and several other states and governors have taken similar actions toward expunging cannabis convictions since Biden’s 2022 call to action (AP).

The announcement was covered by national and international news outlets.

To date, Governor Healy has pardoned 13 people while in office (1). This latest and larger pardon will need to be approved by the Governor’s Council before action is taken (1).

Related: read a discussion on how diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) shape the future of the cannabis industry.


  1. Governor Healey Announces Nation-Leading Effort to Pardon Marijuana Possession Misdemeanor Convictions. March 13, 2024.
  2. LebBanc, S. Massachusetts governor to pardon those convicted of misdemeanor cannabis possession (accessed Mar 13, 2024).
  3. McEvoy, E., President Biden discusses cannabis in state of the union address. (accessed Mar 13, 2024).
  4. Wuthmann, W., Healey announces sweeping pardons for simple possession of cannabis. (accessed Mar 13, 2024).