MA Cannabis Record Expungement Info: Clearing the Path Forward

cannabis leaf next to gavel

In the historic state of Massachusetts, a significant shift in the legal landscape has unfolded, turning a new leaf for individuals with past cannabis-related offenses. Once marked by stringent laws that criminalized the possession and use of marijuana, the state has now embraced more progressive regulations, acknowledging the need for change. This change comes in the form of an opportunity for expungement, a legal remedy that offers a fresh start and a clear record for many whose lives have been impacted by previous cannabis convictions.

Here at Gentlemen Smugglers, we’re proud to be advocates for this new and fair cannabis reality. Follow along with this blog as we highlight expungement efforts in the Bay State, as well as some recent developments. 

Understanding Expungement in Massachusetts

Expungement is a legal process that essentially erases a conviction or record of arrest from an individual’s criminal history. In Massachusetts, this process has become a beacon of hope for many, as it not only symbolizes the state’s shift in perspective towards cannabis but also provides tangible relief and opens new opportunities for those affected by past laws.

The passing of Massachusetts’ cannabis expungement legislation is a monumental step towards rectifying the repercussions faced by individuals with minor cannabis-related offenses. This initiative aims to alleviate the lifelong burdens these records can impose, including difficulties in securing employment, housing, and education opportunities.

Who is Eligible?

Not all cannabis-related records qualify for expungement in Massachusetts, and understanding the criteria is crucial for those seeking to navigate this process. Expungement eligibility typically focuses on offenses that are no longer considered illegal under state law, primarily those related to possession of quantities of marijuana that are now legally permissible.

To be eligible for expungement under the new laws, individuals must meet specific guidelines, including the nature of the offense and the amount of cannabis involved. Additionally, the process may vary depending on whether the conviction is from before or after the legalization of recreational cannabis in 2016.

How to Apply for Expungement

The journey to expungement begins with a thorough understanding of your record and the specific statutes under which you were convicted. The Massachusetts Judicial Branch provides resources and a detailed application process for those seeking expungement, including forms and instructions on their official website.

The process involves petitioning the court for expungement, a step that may benefit from the guidance of legal counsel, particularly for those unfamiliar with legal procedures. Non-profit organizations and legal aid services may offer support and assistance to individuals navigating the expungement process, ensuring that all necessary documentation is accurately prepared and submitted.

The Impact of Expungement

The expungement of cannabis-related records is more than just a legal formality; it represents a profound, life-changing opportunity for many. Clearing a record can remove barriers that have hindered personal and professional growth, opening doors to new possibilities and marking the start of a new chapter free from the shadows of the past.

empty courtroom

Looking Ahead

Massachusetts’ move to allow expungement for cannabis-related offenses reflects a growing recognition of the need for fair and compassionate laws that acknowledge the changing societal views on marijuana use. As more individuals become aware of and pursue expungement, the state takes another step towards justice, equity, and the restoration of opportunities for those once marginalized by outdated laws.

For those in Massachusetts carrying the weight of a past cannabis-related offense, the message is clear: there is a path forward. With the option of expungement now a reality, the future looks brighter, offering a second chance to rebuild and move forward with a clean slate.

As Massachusetts continues to evolve its stance on cannabis, the possibility of expanding eligibility and simplifying the expungement process remains a hopeful prospect for many. Until then, those eligible for expungement are encouraged to seize this opportunity to reclaim their futures and leave past convictions where they belong—in the past.

Recent Expungement News

Recently, Democratic Governor Maura Healey of Massachusetts announced a significant initiative to issue pardons for those with misdemeanor marijuana convictions, marking the most extensive cannabis pardon effort proposed by a governor in the U.S. This initiative will automatically pardon hundreds of thousands of individuals convicted of marijuana misdemeanors in the state, without any exceptions or qualifications. This action follows historical data showing nearly 68,800 civil or criminal violations for marijuana possession in Massachusetts from 2000 to 2013.

Paul Armentano, Deputy Director of NORML, highlighted the unfair burden and stigma carried by Americans due to past convictions for actions increasingly not considered crimes by most Americans and many states. The pardon plan allows for the request of written pardon certificates through an online form, emphasizing the difference between pardons, which offer forgiveness, and expungements, which remove crimes from one’s record.

Massachusetts’ legal system previously allowed convictions to be petitioned for expungement, with the Supreme Judicial Court making it harder for judges to deny these requests in 2022, although approval rates were low. Governors from several states have issued over 100,000 pardons for low-level marijuana convictions in recent years, and data shows more than two million marijuana-related cases have had records expunged or sealed since 2018.

President Joe Biden also made moves at the federal level, issuing pardons for certain federal marijuana-related convictions and encouraging governors to do the same for state-level convictions. Governor Healey’s action aligns with her campaign pledge and President Biden’s steps towards addressing past marijuana convictions. Nationwide, there is significant public support for expunging non-violent marijuana-related convictions.

Last Prisoner Project’s 420 Unity Day of Action

While not MA news, but because we proudly work with LPP, we also wanted to put a spotlight on their recent event. Despite the legalization of adult-use cannabis sales in 24 states and D.C., and a significant portion of the U.S. population living in areas with some form of legal cannabis, a large number of individuals remain incarcerated due to cannabis-related offenses. As efforts are made to lower cannabis from a Schedule I drug at the federal level, advocates emphasize the need for its full legalization. This entails descheduling cannabis and implementing measures to rectify the injustices of past policies.

On April 18th, 2024, a major mobilization effort took place. It was called the 420 Unity Day of Action, aiming to unite a broad bipartisan alliance of cannabis advocacy groups, industry members, and grassroots organizations. This coalition planned to lobby in Washington D.C. to apply public pressure on Congress and the President, advocating for the complete legalization of cannabis. The goals included not only legal changes but also the release of those imprisoned for cannabis offenses and the provision of retroactive justice to affected individuals.

Gentlemen Smugglers — Supporting Cannabis Warriors across the Nation

Finally, it’s clear that the fight for cannabis reform and justice goes beyond just legalizing the plant. It encompasses supporting those who have suffered due to outdated laws and ensuring they receive both pardon and the crucial opportunity for expungement. 

Expungement is vital as it not only erases a conviction from one’s record but also alleviates the long-term consequences that can affect employment, housing, and other aspects of life. By advocating for and facilitating expungements, we’re taking significant steps toward restoring dignity and opening doors that have been unjustly closed for too many, for too long.

Let’s continue to support initiatives like the one led by Governor Healey and work towards a future where the stigma attached to past cannabis convictions is entirely eradicated. Together, we can help reintegrate countless individuals back into society, truly free from the shadows of their past. For every cannabis warrior out there, it’s our collective mission to ensure that they receive the justice and respect they deserve.

*The contents of this blog are intended for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.*


With a rich background in accounting and a trail of successful mentees launching their accounting firms, Vanessa is not just a financial expert but the force behind the scenes, ensuring the numbers align for daring endeavors. Juggling the roles of being an accounting professional, mentor, business consultant, and proud DOPE CFO Pro Badge holder, she continues to bring a unique blend of dedication and organizational prowess to her role.

In 2019, Vanessa launched her accounting firm, Butler CFO & Tax, where she’s helped hundreds of firm owners and non-profit organizations scale their businesses.  She has been a driving force helping the Gentlemen Smugglers to stay successful.

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Peter Cardoz

As a passionate cannabis advocate, lifetime food enthusiast and veteran scientist, Peter brings his wealth of knowledge and love for cannabis to the Gentlemen Smugglers team. He started his research career from an early age, eventually conducting research at The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine, where he become published in Nature Communications.

In 2021, Peter started his own consulting company, Cardoz Blended Gourmet, and a launched a line of gourmet, live resin infused CBD culinary oils.

Cathy O'Hara

Meet Cathy, head of People Operations at Gentlemen Smugglers. Cathy is a former journalist turned Tech Pioneer. As the 35th employee at AirBNB, Cathy helped scale the home-sharing startup into the mega star it is today.

Cathy joins GS with a proven knowledge of recruiting, people leadership, community relationship building, customer service operations, workflow planning and project management. Plus she’s just a cool world traveler.