BOSTON (CBS) — Thirty years ago, state lawmakers thought it would be a good idea to suspend the driver’s license of every person convicted of a drug-related crime.

Now, lawmakers have acknowledged that keeping licenses from those offenders holds them back from getting back into society.

On Wednesday, Gov. Charlie Baker signed a bill into law that allows low-level drug offenders to keep their driver’s license.

“As the Commonwealth takes important steps to battle substance abuse and reexamine our criminal justice system, I am pleased to sign legislation providing opportunities for those convicted of drug offenses and who have served their time to re-enter society, find and keep a job and support their families,” said Gov. Baker in a statement.

State lawmakers decided the old measure was counterproductive.

“A driver’s license, for someone who’s been convicted, paid their price so to speak, is important if we also want them to get back into society,” Mattapoisett State Rep. William Strauss said.

Baker said the new, bipartisan legislation will give those in treatment or recovery a better chance at getting back on their feet.

In the past, these offenders not only lost their licenses–they had to pay a significant fee to have them again.

“The onerous $500 reinstatement fee is gone,” said Strauss. “So, this will help people.”

Within 30 days of this bill becoming law, drug offenders affected will get their licenses back.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Carl Stevens reports

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