Massachusetts Governor Downplays President Biden’s Federal Cannabis Pardon

A week after President Joe Biden called on the nation’s governors to pardon state-level cannabis possession convictions, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker said no thanks, he’d stick with the state’s current system.

Baker, who initially declined to say what he would do during his remaining months as governor, pointed to a 2018 piece of legislation he signed into law allowing individuals once prosecuted for marijuana-related conduct to seek out and erase their records.

Anybody in Massachusetts who wants to expunge their record appropriately can do so now, under existing state law,” Baker said. “Massachusetts has passed an expungement law for anybody convicted of simple possession of marijuana back in 2018 (…) And we signed legislation last year to make the process even easier.

Massachusetts Governor, Charlie Baker

Governor Baker added that the pardon process is complicated and doesn’t happen overnight. “I think at this point the fastest, easiest and quickest way for somebody to deal with an issue around simple possession would be to just pursue the expungement process. It’s why it’s there.”

Meanwhile, MA’s Attorney General Maura Healey (D) said she would pardon cannabis convictions if she were elected governor.

By contrast, Republican candidate Geoff Diehl said he would not and called Biden’s request “the latest in a series of outrageous moves (…) to eliminate consequences for wrongful actions.”

Massachusetts Senators Elizabeth Warren (D) and Ed Markey (D) expressed support for Biden’s decision, calling pardons and legalizing marijuana at the federal level positive moves, reported MassLive.

Finally, state lawmakers argue that the expungement process is difficult for people to navigate, and a governor’s pardon would be more efficient.

Governor Baker Supports Cannabis Initiatives

A noted cannabis supporter, Governor Baker signed into law the first major step of its kind by state government to bolster the nascent industry and tear down obstacles that its participants face back in August.

Baker approved almost everything in a wide-reaching cannabis industry regulatory reform bill, greenlighting measures to increase diversity in the field, increase oversight on agreements between marijuana businesses and municipalities, and move closer to social pot consumption sites.

The Republican governor struck a single section from the bill that would have required state agencies to examine ways to allow students to possess and use medical marijuana on K-12 school grounds.


This article was originally published on Benzinga and appears here with permission.

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