The governor and lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania announced a new month-long initiative to facilitate pardons for people with certain nonviolent cannabis convictions on their records.
Gov. Tom Wolf (D) and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) said they hope to pardon thousands of Pennsylvanians who are eligible for the relief with the assistance of the PA Marijuana Pardon Project and the state Board of Pardons.
To be eligible, individuals must have one of 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)
Applications must be submitted through the program’s website by the end of September in order to be considered. The Board of Pardons will then make a decision on individual applications by mid-December and send their recommendations to Gov. Wolf for confirmation.
Even with a pardon, however, individuals will still need to petition the court in order to have the conviction expunged from their record entirely.
So far under his tenure, Wolf has issued more than 300 pardons for cannabis-related convictions.
Pennsylvania’s GOP-controlled legislature has balked at passing comprehensive reform of the state’s cannabis laws under the Wolf-Fetterman administration, so the governor said he will instead take action to ameliorate the worst effects of cannabis criminalization.
“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.”
Fetterman, for his part, is in the midst of his campaign for a seat in the Senate, but has said he wants to process as many marijuana pardons as he can before leaving office.
“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,” he said.
A spokesperson for House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R), Jason Gottesman, labeled the month-long expedited process as a “literal get out of jail free card” and a “sideshow for a major office candidate,” in reference to Fetterman’s run for the Senate.
Fetterman’s Republican opponent, Dr. Oz, has said he is against legalizing cannabis despite claiming in 2020 that the US should “completely change [its] policy on marijuana.”
Wolf is coming to the end of his term as governor and the two candidates vying to succeed him, Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) and Sen. Doug Mastriano (R), are also diametrically opposed to one another on marijuana reform.