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What Does President Biden’s Announcement Mean for Massachusetts? 

White House announces plans to pardon all prior Federal offenses of simple possession of marijuana and review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.

August 29, 2023

Push for change by urging Gov. Charlie Baker to support federal marijuana legalization. Contact his office online or by phone at 617-725-4005.  

President Joe Biden took a major step toward decriminalizing marijuana by pardoning all prior federal offenses of minor marijuana possession, which will clear the records of an estimated 6,500 Americans who have been convicted of these charges at the federal level. Additionally, the Biden administration urged all governors to follow his lead and pardon those convicted of similar offenses in state courts (where minor marijuana convictions are much more common).  

President Biden also announced that his administration will review and reconsider marijuana’s current classification as a Schedule 1 narcotic – the same category as cocaine and heroin – which could have major positive implications for the continued research and testing of marijuana as a legitimate medical treatment.   

Even though this announcement is not the full federal marijuana legalization or marijuana expungement that advocates (including us) hoped for, this is still incredible news. Pardoning these convictions will help remove obstacles for people trying to get a job, find housing, apply to college or qualify for federal benefits. If state governors follow suit, hundreds of thousands of people could see their lives change for the better.  

We believe that no one should be in jail for weed. According to the ACLU, 8.2 million people were arrested on marijuana charges between 2001 and 2010. Of those 8.3 million arrests, nearly 90% of them were for simple possession. Those arrests disproportionally affected people of color, despite the fact marijuana usage rates among people of color and white people have consistently remained about the same.  

So what’s next for marijuana legalization in Massachusetts?

So what’s next? Government leaders need to move toward the federal legalization of marijuana. As you know, both medical and adult recreational use of marijuana is fully legal in Massachusetts. Federal legalization will benefits Massachusetts residents by establishing clear legal guidelines that are held to a national standard, potentially allowing for state-to-state travel with legally purchased marijuana, and perhaps most significantly, opening the door for federal funding to support the continued research of marijuana as a legitimate medical treatment. 

We at NETA applaud Gov. Baker for his support of state legislation that allows those who have been convicted of minor marijuana charges to petition for record expungement and makes it easier for expungement to be awarded. We urge the governor and state legislature to continue supporting legal marijuana use within the state and to vocalize their support for federal marijuana legalization. 

How can you take action in Massachusetts?

As Massachusetts residents, you hold the power to influence your officials. We encourage you to reach out to them and voice your support for federal marijuana legalization. Contact Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Ed Markey via their websites, or call their congressional offices directly at 202-224-3121.   

It is time that we end the stigma around marijuana use and embrace its benefits. Everyone, no matter what state they live in, deserves access to safe, regulated and legal marijuana products.  

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