Harrisburg, PA: Those with low-level marijuana convictions are being encouraged to seek pardons from state officials.
The Pennsylvania Board of Pardons has created an expedited process to review and grant pardon applications for those with marijuana-related records. There is no fee associated with filing an application.
Those who receive pardons are then encouraged to apply with county officials to have their criminal records expunged from the public domain.
"[O]ne thing we can do right now is alleviate the burden of small-amount, nonviolent convictions that scar the lives of otherwise productive citizens," Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman said. "These people have done no harm to anyone else. They shouldn’t continue to suffer with employment and housing issues because they were convicted of doing something that most Pennsylvanians don’t even think should be illegal."
Last week, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro both publicly endorsed plans to legalize the adult use of cannabis in the state and to expunge criminal records. Wolf’s announcement marks a change in his prior position, and came shortly after the conclusion of a county-by-county listening tour during which members of the public were asked to share their views on the subject of marijuana policy.
"We now know the majority of Pennsylvanians are in favor of legalization, and that includes me," Gov. Wolf said in a prepared statement. Based upon public feedback, officials estimated that between 65 and 70 percent of Pennsylvanians endorse legalizing marijuana.
Attorney General Shapiro added, "Continuing to criminalize adult personal marijuana use is a waste of limited law enforcement resources, it disproportionately impacts our minority communities and it does not make us safer."
In response to the announcement, Republican leaders in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives issued a statement expressing "disappointment" and "frustration" with the Governor. "We do not believe [that] easing regulations on illegal drugs is the right move," they said.
Under state law, minor marijuana possession offenses are classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a criminal record.
For more information, contact Carly Wolf, NORML State Policies Coordinator, at (202) 483-5500, or visit one of NORML’s Pennsylvania affiliates.