President Joe Biden announced today that he will pardon people with federal convictions of simple marijuana possession. He also called on governors to follow suit and pardon people convicted of simple marijuana possession under their state laws.  

Carol Rose, executive director of the ACLU of Massachusetts, today released the following statement in response: 

“This is a victory for our nation, and for fairness and justice: Because of this executive action, thousands of people haunted by a criminal conviction now have the possibility of fewer barriers to housing, employment, education, and stability. It means thousands of people will get their second chance. 

“The governor should heed President Biden’s call and promptly pardon people with convictions for marijuana possession. But Massachusetts should be looking beyond marijuana convictions to right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs more generally; that includes using clemency powers to remedy the harm caused by decades of draconian criminal laws and prioritizing harm reduction over criminalization.” 


The ACLU of Massachusetts yesterday released comprehensive state drug prosecution data from 2003-2014. According to the data, nearly half (44%) of the drug charges filed against people in Massachusetts during this period exclusively concerned simple possession. While these low-level drug charges burdened people with jail time and fees and clogged up courtrooms across the state, most of these cases did not lead to a guilty finding: Nineteen percent (19%) of simple possession cases resulted in a guilty finding or plea during this period. 

The ACLU obtained the data from the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court during multi-year litigation arising from systemic government misconduct at two drug labs responsible for testing substances. The litigation ultimately led to the mass dismissal of more than 61,000 charges across more than 35,000 cases.   

For more information, go to: