Pennsylvania residents who have previously been busted for cannabis now have a pathway to a clean record.
Gov. Tom Wolf and Lieutenant Gov. John Fetterman, both Democrats, announced last week the creation of the “PA Marijuana Pardon Project,” billed as an “effort to quickly pardon thousands of Pennsylvanians from minor, non-violent marijuana-related convictions.”
“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,” Wolf said in the announcement on Friday.
The governor’s office said that “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)”; and “Marijuana, Small Amount Personal Use (Title 35 Section 780-113 Subsection A31I).”
Individuals interested in applying for the program have from September 1 through September 30 to submit their applications online.
“Under the program’s timeline, applicants will be notified by Oct. 13 if they will receive a public hearing. In mid-December, the Board of Pardons will vote on individual cases in public hearings. After the conclusion of the hearings, application recommendations will be made to Wolf for pardons that he will issue prior to departing office in January,” Wolf’s office said in the press release on Friday.
Wolf and Fetterman, who is running for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania this year, said that they were taking the action “in the absence of legislative action on legalization by the Republican-controlled General Assembly.”
“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 in the press release.
Fetterman, who is running against Republican nominee Mehmet Oz (AKA “Dr. Oz”) in the Senate race, is a vocal champion of marijuana legalization.
Last week, ahead of President Biden’s Labor Day visit to Pittsburgh, Fetterman urged the White House to take action on cannabis reform.
“It’s long past time that we finally decriminalize marijuana,” Fetterman said in a statement. “The president needs to use his executive authority to begin descheduling marijuana, I would love to see him do this prior to his visit to Pittsburgh. This is just common sense and Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly support decriminalizing marijuana.”
That position makes for a stark contrast with Oz, who has said he is opposed to cannabis legalization, and whose campaign has mocked Fetterman’s pot-friendly policies.
In an ad released last month, the Oz campaign slammed Fetterman’s position on marijuana, and depicted a bong coming out of the Democratic candidate’s head.
“There are not enough Pennsylvanians to work in Pennsylvania,” Oz said in an interview with Newsmax in May, “so giving them pot so that they stay home is not, I don’t think, an ideal move….We need to get Pennsylvanians back at work, gotta give them their mojo, and I don’t want marijuana to be a hindrance to that.”
Fetterman, meanwhile, has not equivocated on the issue.
“I don’t want to hear any bull— coming out of Dr. Oz’s campaign trying to conflate decriminalizing marijuana with seriously harmful crime,” Fetterman said in a statement, as quoted by the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Are we supposed to believe that neither he nor any members of his staff have ever used marijuana? … I know firsthand what real crime looks like. Marijuana does not fit the bill.”
Cannabis reform advocates praised Wolf and Fetterman for the pardon program.
“It’s a good example of Gov. Wolf and Lt. Gov. Fetterman doing everything they can from the executive office on this issue,” Chris Goldstein, NORML’s Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware regional organizer, said in the press release last week.