Pennsylvanians with minor, nonviolent marijuana criminal convictions could be pardoned beginning Thursday in a period until the end of the month under a joint effort from Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.
Starting Thursday and running through Friday, Sept. 30th, the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons will accept applications for the PA Marijuana Pardon Project.
The 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.
Marijuana became a federal, schedule-one drug under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.
Wolf said Thursday “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 chaperone a field trip, or any Pennsylvanian who’s been told ‘no’ for much needed assistance. Now’s your chance.”
However, those who are pardoned will still need to petition the court to remove the conviction from their records.
“It’s truly a harmless drug, I mean, I think it helps people. It helps people with their anxiety and stress and, you know, there’s a lot of positives to it and I don’t think they’re very violent people.”
Several people we talked with said they like the idea of pardoning people for minor marijuana infractions.
“More people than ever are, like, in prison, and then it makes them harder to get jobs and if they go to jail, I’m pretty sure people can’t vote and stuff, So, I think that pardoning people would be a good idea.”
In Thursday’s announcement, Fetterman said “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.”
In fact, Pennsylvanians’ opinions about legalizing marijuana completely lean this way.
A Muhlenberg College poll from this spring shows 56% – more than half of all Pennsylvanians – support the legalization of adult usage.
“As long as the people who are eligible to get pardons don’t have any violent offenses or any other more serious charges,” said Bellefonte resident Victoria Raish, “that seems okay to me.”
This all comes two months before the midterm elections, in which Fetterman is the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate.
In response to this, Fetterman’s election opponent, Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz, told us that “John Fetterman’s record on pardons include pardoning convicted murderers over the objection of even Democrats.”
“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.
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.
“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,”