Blanket pot pardons details coming Wednesday

There is little question that a plan from Gov. Maura Healey to forgive people with past cannabis possession convictions in Massachusetts will glide through an elected body tasked with reviewing judicial nominations and pardons.

But some members of the Governor’s Council want to know exactly how a blanket pardon of at least tens of thousands people — the first of its kind in Massachusetts — will actually work. Healey said records would be updated automatically but councilors said they wanted more details that were missing when the governor announced the move earlier this month.

The group voted to schedule an informational hearing for Wednesday at noon, according to a council staff member.

Not all were immediately on board with the idea, including Councilor Marilyn Devaney, who said that it would only slow down the timeline for people who have had to deal with the ramifications of past convictions.

“There are people that are waiting and there isn’t any law against what they have been accused of and it’s preventing them from jobs and so much. This was all discussed,” she said Wednesday. “If anyone has any objections when we’re voting on it, that’s when any person who objects to approving the pardon will talk. But having a hearing … I think it’s really unconscionable. People are waiting.”

Her colleagues didn’t agree.

“I understand the concern. But frankly, this is the first time in history this has happened in the commonwealth. I know other states have done things like this. I think for transparency and for the public and for procedure, that it’s not a bad idea to do. It is our job,” Councilor Eileen Duff said.

Healey’s office has said pardons for misdemeanor cannabis possession convictions could impact “hundreds of thousands of people.” The plan would take effect immediately after the Governor’s Council votes to approve it, Healey said, though there could be a delay for individual criminal records to be updated.

Healey argued the pardons were the “most comprehensive action” by a single governor since President Joe Biden pardoned federal cannabis possession convictions and called on state leaders to do the same.

“The reason we do this is simple, justice requires it. 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,” she said earlier this month.

While a majority of Governor’s Councilors told the Herald they were on board with the idea shortly after the governor announced it, the group approved an “informational hearing” on the initiative.

Councilor Terrence Kennedy said he initially thought an informational hearing wasn’t necessary but had a change of heart.

“I think that it’s important that the public fully understand what the pardon means and what impact it has on people as well as the councilors. And I think the only way you can really get all of that is by way of a hearing,” he said.

Devaney ultimately relented in her opposition.

“I did not vote against it because if that’s the will, then so be it and you’ll be chairing it and so be it,” Devaney said to Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll, who chairs the Governor’s Council.

Drinks to-go eighty-sixed?

Most people would be lying if they said alcohol didn’t help them get through the darkest days of the pandemic, and the ability to grab a drink or cocktail to-go during that time was also a boon for struggling restaurants.

But the pandemic-era policy is set to lapse Monday without any action from the Legislature, which has so far not found a compromise on legislation that could include a permanent extension of the measure.

A spending bill passed by the House earlier this month codified the practice into state law. But the Senate did not include the language in their version when they pushed the bill forward a few weeks later.

The proposal is stuck in inter-branch discussions because it includes hundreds of millions for the emergency shelter system housing migrants and local families and a policy that would cap families’ stay in shelters at nine months. Negotiators meet for the first time Monday morning.

A deal could very well pop this week considering the drinks policy has expired and money for the shelter system is running out. But until then, drinks to-go and another pandemic-era initiative allowing for outdoor dining are about to be eighty-sixed.

Everett and soccer fans get their Beacon Hill moment

Supporters of turning a run-down industrial park in Everett into a soccer stadium will have a chance to lobby lawmakers on a bill filed by state Sen. Sal DiDomenico that opens a path forward for the development.

The Legislature’s Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies scheduled a 2 p.m. hearing Tuesday. DiDomenico’s proposal is the only matter up for discussion.

A push for a stadium near Encore Boston Harbor was put on ice late last year after lawmakers ultimately scrapped it from a controversial spending bill that also included money for emergency shelters.

DiDomenico, an Everett Democrat, filed a standalone bill in December that would remove a portion of land at 173 Alford Street from a “designated port area” on the Mystic River only “for the purpose of converting the parcel into a professional soccer stadium and a waterfront park,” according to the bill text.

The roughly 43-acre plot is partially in Boston and Everett, according to the bill.

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