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Mass. clinic to offer residents a helping hand with marijuana expungement

A marijuana plant in the nursery at the NETA cultivation center in Franklin. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A marijuana plant in the nursery at the NETA cultivation center in Franklin. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from WBUR's daily morning newsletter, WBUR Today. If you like what you read and want it in your inbox, sign up here

I didn’t know Orange Line trains could derail even when they’re on the highway. Shout out to my colleagues Meagan McGinnes and Hanna Ali for keeping this newsletter on the tracks yesterday during my extra-long Presidents Day weekend.

Let’s get to the news:

Last year, Massachusetts passed a law making it easier for residents to expunge marijuana crimes that have since been decriminalized from their records. But the process still isn’t automatic. So, this weekend, a company with dispensaries in Massachusetts is hoping to give locals a helping hand. WBUR’s Amy Sokolow reports that Ayr Wellness is planning to hold an “expungement clinic” Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. at the Connexion United Methodist Church in Somerville. It’s part of a multi-state series of clinics this weekend intended to connect attendees with legal services, re-entry programs and even potential financial support.

  • Khari Edwards, Ayr’s head of corporate social responsibility, told Sokolow that the inaugural series expunged records for 200 people last year, including 36 in Massachusetts. But he estimates that there is still “well over a six-figure” number of people in the state who need to go through the process.
  • If you can’t attend Saturday, the state also has a webpage to help residents find out if they’re eligible and request an expungement.
  • Zoom out: Massachusetts was the first state in the country to mandate equity and inclusion in the legal weed industry for those most harmed by laws prohibiting marijuana. But it’s still a work in progress — particularly on the ownership side. As of late 2021, just 6% of the company licenses had been issued to social equity program or economic empowerment priority applicants. The new law passed last year tries to address those imbalances as well.

Relatable: Gov. Maura Healey signed on yesterday to work from her Florida vacation. The brief return was to announce the new head of the Department of Energy Resources: Elizabeth Mahoney.

  • Mahoney most recently worked as an assistant attorney general and senior policy advisor for energy in Healey’s old office. In the new gig, which starts Monday, she’ll help ensure the adequacy and cost-effectiveness of the Massachusetts’ energy supply while also helping the state hit its clean energy goals.

On the agenda: The Boston City Council is planning to hold its first hearing this morning on Mayor Michelle Wu’s rent control proposal, allowing the public to weigh in on the plan. (The proposal ultimately needs the approval of the Council, State House and Healey in order to get around the statewide rent control ban.)

  • An organized counteroffensive against Wu’s proposal has already begun. According to The Boston Globe, the real estate industry has launched a $400,000 anti-rent control campaign, which it plans to expand if Wu’s proposal makes it to the State House.

PSA for parents and kiddo wranglers: The New England Aquarium is extending its hours for February vacation week. That means the Boston aquarium will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Friday (one hour later than its usual 5 p.m. weekday closing time). Officials encourage reserving your ticket online at least a day before your visit.

  • To avoid the crowds, spokesperson Allyn Hunt advised all aquatic fans to also consider visiting earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon. “Between 11 and 3 are our peak times,” Hunt told WBUR’s Stevee Chapman.” The building will be more crowded than it will be earlier in the day or near the end of the day.”
  • If you need more family-fun ideas for this time off from school, be sure to check out these suggestions from WBUR’s Hanna Ali.

A sad update: The Boston Marathon will be without one of its most popular spectators this year. Spencer, the golden retriever who greeted runners along the course in Ashland as the “Official Dog of the Boston Marathon,” has passed away after a long bout with cancer. His owners announced the news last night, along with a farewell video. (Fair warning: It’s a tough one to get through with dry eyes.)

P.S.— We’re in for a messy mix of wintry weather later tonight, thanks to a huge storm dropping loads of snow across the country. For better or worse, it will mostly be rain and sleet in the Boston area. But northern Massachusetts could see a few inches of snow and the ski areas in VermontNew Hampshire and Maine could get nearly a foot. (One quick question for any readers who have ski trips to the snow-slammed west planned soon: Take me with you?)


Nik DeCosta-Klipa Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.



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