What to Know
- 13,000 people, who were arrested last year alone for marijuana charges, could potentially be pardoned, according to a leading advocate for legalization.
- Applications for pardons must be submitted by Sept. 30 in order for them to be heard by the state Board of Pardons in October.
- Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a longtime proponent of marijuana legalization, is running for U.S. Senate in November. He has said he would make federal legalization a priority if elected to succeed outing Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican who is not running for a third term.
Pennsylvanians with minor, nonviolent marijuana criminal convictions could be pardoned next month in a process beginning Thursday through a joint effort from Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman that could last through the month.
The so-called “one-time, large-scale pardon effort” will allow anyone who has been convicted of possession of marijuana or small amount of personal use to apply. There is no limit for the age of conviction.
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The application is free, and entirely online.
Officials estimate that thousands of Pennsylvanians are eligible due to convictions over the past several decades.
“It’s a good example of Gov. Wolf and Lt. Gov. Fetterman doing everything they can from the executive office on this issue,” said Chris Goldstein, NORML’s Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware regional organizer. “This is, as much as they can do, it’s still really limited.”
Last year, he said, 13,000 people who were arrested for marijuana use could potentially benefit from this pardon effort.
“This one month window, I hope this works, but there could be hundreds of thousands of people that apply,” he said.
The window for the pardon effort is limited by Gov. Wolf’s remaining tenure. Having Sept. 30 as the cut off date allows the applications to be reviewed at the Board of Pardon’s October meeting.
In a statement, Wolf said he has called on the Republican-controlled Legislature to support the legalization of adult-use marijuana. An effort from Republican Sen. Dan Laughlin of Erie County so far has not advanced.
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“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,” Wolf said.
Opponents panned it for “cav(ing) to their political base.”
“This literal get out of jail free card is outside the normal scope of the pardons process, lacks serious oversight, and does even more to pick winners and losers in the criminal justice reform process,” said Jason Gottesman, Pennsylvania’s House Republican Caucus spokesperson.