The recreational marijuana law passed in Massachusetts in 2016 following the Question 4 ballot initiative allows people with criminal records for marijuana possession convictions prior to legalization to seal their records through the Commissioner of Probation in Boston. When records are sealed they still exist but are only available to law enforcement and sometimes municipalities if the person is applying for a firearm license, when records are expunged they are deleted from the record. The April 13 criminal justice reform bill makes sealing a record available to more people in Massachusetts.
“We did take significant steps to allow people to get their records sealed and reduce the amount of time they need to wait to have their records sealed,” said Senator Stanley Rosenberg, who represents Hampshire, Franklin, and Worcester Counties in the Massachusetts senate
The criminal justice reform bill also authorizes the expungement of certain records for juveniles, (including marijuana and other drug offenses).
Michael Cutler, a Northampton attorney at Evans Cutler Attorneys who served on the drafting committee for the ballot question that legalized recreational marijuana in 2016, explained that the criminal justice reform bill also ensures that seals and expungements are enforced once they are authorized.
“This law is intended to reach any place in the record,” Cutler said.
Despite these reforms to the criminal justice system in Massachusetts, Jefferson said that the process of applying for a record to be expunged or to be sealed will still require capital for legal expenses and the knowledge that those processes are even possible.
“It’s still a process,” Jefferson said. “There are still a lot of technicalities. But it’s a good step.”
Jefferson said that lack of information will also probably be a barrier for the people who are the beneficiaries of the social justice provisions of the CCC regulations.
“(The CCC) is thinking about those people in licensing but there’s still the loophole of even knowing that those exist,” Jefferson said. “They’re not understanding the cannabis community and what this illicit market looked like before legalization.”
Rosenberg said that the licensing process is very new (applications were made available at the beginning of April) and that there is still room to improve the cannabis regulations to better serve the communities that were worst affected by the war on drugs.
“If this is not working the way it’s intended we can go back in and add more requirements,” Rosenberg said.