Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman have announced a new project that would pardon incarcerated individuals for low-level marijuana crimes. The project called Pennsylvania Marijuana Pardon Project will allow convicts to submit online applications for an official pardon from the state.
While in office, Wolf has successfully pardoned 2,098 individuals for non-violent marijuana offenses, 326 of those for “expedited review for nonviolent marijuana-related offenses.” The applications will be available for the month of September. Wolf is leaving office in January 2023 and is looking to expedite the project to ensure as many people as possible can have a chance at pardon.
Over the 15 years prior to Wolf taking office, only 1,085 individuals have been pardoned for marijuana offenses. “I have repeatedly called on our Republican-led General Assembly to support the legalization of adult-use marijuana, but they’ve yet to meet this call for action from myself and Pennsylvanians,” Wolf said in a press release. “Until they do, I am committed to doing everything in my power to support Pennsylvanians who have been adversely affected by a minor marijuana offense on their record.”
To be eligible for the applications, the individuals must be in for either “Possession of Marijuana” or “Marijuana, Small Amount Personal Use” (an amount under 30 grams). The conviction has to have happened in Pennsylvania and the convicts must not have any other crimes or convictions on their records. There is also no age limit on the pardons and the state estimates that thousands of people currently incarcerated will be eligible.
“Nobody should be turned down for a job, housing, or volunteering at your child’s school because of some old, nonviolent weed charge – especially given that most of us don’t even think this should be illegal,” Fetterman, who is currently running against Dr. Mehmet Oz for a Senate seat, said in the release.
Once applications are submitted, they will be sent to the Board of Pardons who will review the documents and those who are approved will be granted a public hearing. From there if the board approves, those selected will be sent to Wolf for pardons after December 16, 2022. Though they will be pardoned by the Governor, the individuals will still need to petition the courts to have the charges expunged from their records.
Former prosecutor and marijuana defense attorney Patrick Nightingale have some concerns about the project, stating it does not include charges for paraphernalia. This would include possession of grinders, rolling papers, smoking devices, and even plastic baggies at the time of the arrest.
“In my experience, I have not often seen someone charged solely with a small amount of marijuana and prosecuted to conviction solely on a small amount of marijuana. I usually see that paraphernalia charge tacked on with it,” Nightingale said to CBS Pittsburgh.