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Week in Review: Massachusetts Governor to Pardon Thousands of Cannabis Convictions

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Week in Review: Massachusetts Governor to Pardon Thousands of Cannabis Convictions

ICYMI: Catch up on the week’s latest news from across the cannabis spectrum.

In this week’s cannabis news round-up, Massachusetts governor grants pardons for misdemeanor cannabis convictions; Minnesota takes aim at illegal cannabis sales ahead of adult-use market launch; and a new study reveals cannabis offers hope for migraine patients.

The Massachusetts State House, Boston. Massachusetts Governor cannabis pardons.
Massachusetts State House, Boston. PHOTO King of Hearts

Massachusetts Governor to Pardon Misdemeanor Cannabis Convictions

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey has announced her intention to issue pardons for tens of thousands of individuals convicted of misdemeanor cannabis possession charges spanning back decades. This initiative marks another significant step by a state toward rectifying the injustices faced by low-level drug offenders.

“Massachusetts decriminalized possession for personal use back in 2008, legalized it in 2016, yet thousands of people are still living with a conviction on their records—a conviction that may be a barrier to jobs, getting housing, even getting an education,” the governor said on her reasoning to grant the cannabis pardons.

According to data from the Cannabis Control Commission, Massachusetts issued nearly 69,000 civil or criminal violations for cannabis possession from 2000 through 2013. The administration estimates that the pardons could potentially benefit hundreds of thousands of individuals, offering a chance to overcome the barriers imposed by past convictions.

If ratified, the pardons will extend to all adult Massachusetts state court misdemeanor convictions for possession of cannabis or a “Class D substance” predating March 13, 2024. Gov. Healey, a Democrat and former state attorney general, emphasized that most individuals affected would not need to take any action to have their criminal records updated.

The pardons hinge on the approval of the Governor’s Council. If approved, they will take immediate effect, albeit requiring time to update criminal records. Gov. Healey highlighted the historic nature of these pardons, likening them to President Joe Biden’s pardoning of federal cannabis possession convictions and urging other governors to follow suit. She underscored the importance of rectifying past injustices, particularly in light of Massachusetts’ decriminalization and subsequent legalization of cannabis.

Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Campbell, echoing Healey’s sentiments, emphasized the lifelong consequences of convictions for simple cannabis possession, especially for marginalized communities— a stark reminder of the systemic inequalities ingrained in the criminal justice system.

“These consequences are only compounded when you consider that a disproportionate number of those who have been arrested and convicted for cannabis possession are Black and brown people,” Campbell said.

However, pardons don’t extend to other cannabis-related convictions, such as possession with intent to distribute or distribution. Additionally, convictions from jurisdictions outside Massachusetts, including federal court, are not covered by the pardons.


Minnesota Takes Aim at Illegal Cannabis Sales Ahead of Adult-Use Market Launch

Minnesota regulators have taken a firm stance against retailers engaging in the sale of illegal cannabis flower, signaling a crackdown ahead of the anticipated launch of the state’s adult-use cannabis market.

Amidst complaints about the sale of illegal cannabis flower falsely labeled as hemp, the Office of Cannabis Management has initiated robust measures to combat this practice. State health inspectors, previously tasked with monitoring hemp-derived edible products, will now extend their scrutiny to raw flower to ensure compliance with THC potency limits distinguishing hemp from cannabis.

While Minnesota residents aged 21 and above are now legally permitted to use and cultivate cannabis for personal use, commercial sales without a cannabis business license remain strictly prohibited. With the Office of Cannabis Management still in the process of establishing a licensing framework, the sale of cannabis flower without proper authorization is deemed unlawful.

Immediate state inspections of raw cannabis flower are slated to commence, with retailers mandated to furnish lab testing certificates validating THC levels below the legal threshold of 0.3% for hemp products. To improve regulatory oversight, Minnesota is expanding its testing infrastructure for cannabis products, including deploying a mobile field unit.

Interim Director Charlene Briner reaffirmed the office’s unwavering commitment to upholding legal standards within the industry. She emphasized the importance of clear guidance to encourage operator compliance and reiterated that products lacking proper certification would be deemed illegal for sale. 

“While this is a temporary issue that will no longer exist once businesses are licensed to sell cannabis flower, OCM’s commitment to ensuring an industry that abides by all legal requirements is steadfast and ongoing,” said Briner. “We’re confident that by providing clear expectations and guidance to businesses, the majority of operators will choose to follow the law.”

Retailers found violating the law face severe penalties, including the seizure of products and fines of up to $1 million. Such infractions could jeopardize an entrepreneur’s prospects of obtaining a cannabis business license, underscoring the significance of adherence to regulatory requirements.

PHOTO Karolina Grabowska

Study: Cannabis Offers Hope for Migraine Sufferers

Recent research published in the journal Neurology Clinical Practice sheds light on the growing trend of migraine patients turning to cannabis for relief.

Conducted by investigators from Yale University’s School of Medicine, the study, titled “Characterizing cannabis use and perceived benefit in a tertiary headache center patient sample,” surveyed responses from 1,373 patients from a tertiary headache center, revealing intriguing insights into the potential benefits of cannabis for migraine management.

According to the study’s findings, just under one-third of respondents admitted to being current cannabis consumers. Among this group, a significant majority reported that cannabis either improved their migraine symptoms or reduced their frequency. More strikingly, 63% of cannabis users noted that their use of the plant allowed them to decrease or even eliminate their reliance on other prescription medications.

 “This is the largest study to date to document cannabis product usage patterns and perceived benefits for migraine management in a clinical headache patient sample,” the study’s lead author said. They concluded that a majority of patients surveyed reported positive outcomes from using cannabis products, citing improvements in migraine characteristics, clinical features and associated risk factors.

These findings echo previous research highlighting the potential efficacy of cannabis in treating migraines. A comprehensive literature review in 2002, encompassing nine studies and over 5,600 subjects, revealed that medical cannabis exhibited a significant clinical response by reducing the length and frequency of migraines. The review suggested that medical cannabis therapy could be a valuable option for migraine sufferers due to its effectiveness and convenience.

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