HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman on Thursday announced a coordinated effort for a one-time, large-scale pardoning project for people with select minor, non-violent marijuana criminal convictions.
"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,” Gov. 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.
“This really expands benefits for a lot of Pennsylvanians, it's estimated that there are thousands that will be eligible under this program," Meredith Buettner, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition, said.
“Taking these steps, to help turn lives around, and effective immediately, expedited, it makes me feel good," State Representative Amen Brown (D-Philadelphia), said.
“This pardon project has the potential to open the door for thousands of Pennsylvanians – the college grad looking to start their career, the grandparent who’s been wanting to chaperone a field trip, or any Pennsylvanian who’s been told 'no’ for much-needed assistance. Now’s your chance," Rep. Brown continued.
The Pennsylvania Board of Pardons will accept applications for the PA Marijuana Pardon Project from Thursday, September 1 through Friday, September 30.
“[I] wish it was for a little bit longer of a period. [I] certainly wish it had been done earlier in the term, so we could see how successful it was and possibly implement something like it on a more regular or permanent basis," Buettner said.
It is estimated that thousands of Pennsylvanians are eligible due to convictions over the past several decades, even pre-dating marijuana’s inclusion as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act.
Anyone with only the two select marijuana offenses noted below on their record is eligible to apply, and there is no limit on the age of the conviction.
Fetterman, who is running for U.S. Senate against Republican candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz, said the project will deliver second chances to thousands of deserving Pennsylvanians who are trying to improve their lives amidst the legislature’s refusal to “take the commonsense approach and just legalize it.”
“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 said.
Some officials and organizations in Pennsylvania agree.
“It's job, housing and overall access to a better life," said Rep. Brown.
“It’s going to help folks have easier access to employment, it will expand education [and] volunteer opportunities for them," Buettner said.
On the opposite side, some believe that these types of programs should be a joint effort with the general assembly.
"The process that our governor is taking by essentially not having that dialogue and trying to work with our legislature on a program like this I think is problematic," Dan Bartkowiak, the Director of Communications at PA Family, said.
Pennsylvanians eligible for the opportunity to be pardoned are those with one or both of the following convictions:
- Possession of Marijuana (Title 35 Section 780-113 Subsection A31)
- Marijuana, Small Amount Personal Use (Title 35 Section 780-113 Subsection A31I)
Individuals can apply for an accelerated pardon through this one-time project at pa.gov/mjpardon.
Once a person submits their application, they will be contacted if any necessary follow-up is needed.
Those who are not eligible to apply for a pardon through this project because they have additional criminal convictions on their record are encouraged to apply for clemency using a standard application available at bop.pa.gov.
While a pardon constitutes complete forgiveness, those whose pardons are granted will still need to petition the court for an expungement of the conviction from their record.
The move was applauded by the Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition, which issued the following statement Thursday afternoon:
Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition (PCC) Executive Director Meredith Buettner today issued a statement backing Governor Wolf and Lieutenant Governor Fetterman’s effort to pardon Pennsylvanians from non-violent marijuana convictions. The PCC is a nonprofit advocacy organization that collaborates with medical marijuana operators, and industry professionals to protect and preserve the state’s emerging marijuana market.
“As the state’s medical marijuana program surpasses its six-year mark, legislators on both sides of the aisle have changed their minds on cannabis. They’ve witnessed a once illicit market help thousands of Pennsylvanians. This effort by state leaders is common sense governing and we believe that legislators will do the right thing -- give thousands of underprivileged Pennsylvanians a chance to get on the same playing field.”