As of the time of this writing, Wolf has pardoned 310 people in total, and 69 of those people were part of a program that received expedited review in order to overturn their cannabis-related charges. The program is called the Expedited Review Program for Non-Violent Marijuana-Related Offenses, and it was instituted in 2019.
“These pardons will give these 310 people a chance to put the conviction behind them, offering them more opportunities as they build careers, buy homes, and move on with their lives free of this burden,” Wolf said regarding the pardons he recently approved and announced. “In particular, the nonviolent marijuana convictions-associated pardons have been expedited to make what was a years-long process now a matter of months.”
Of the pardons considered so far, Wolf denied 13 and held six to be reviewed further. He has also made history for signing a lot of pardons during his time in office. He has signed 1,559 since 2015, which is more than any of his peers nationwide from the last 20 years. Since the implementation of the Expedited Review Program for Non-Violent Marijuana-Related Offenses, he has signed 95 pardons from that group.
“The Pennsylvania Board of Pardons has recently broken with administrative tradition by creating an expedited review process for certain pardon applicants convicted of low-level offenses,” said Brandon Flood, Secretary of the Board of Pardons. “This has initially manifested itself in the form of BOP’s Expedited Review Program for Non-Violent Marijuana-Related Offenses. However, given the success of this program, BOP will soon be expanding this program to include other low-level, non-violent/non-sexual offenses.”
Gov. Tom Wolf’s Push For Cannabis Justice
Wolf initially announced the program to pardon cannabis offenders back in 2019, following his announcement that he backed fully legalizing recreational cannabis in Pennsylvania. While his dreams for legalization have yet to come true due to conservative legislators in the state, he has remained true to his claims, still vocally backing legal cannabis and granting pardons.
However, if 2020 has shown cannabis advocates anything, it is that the plant can boost the economy and help people through tough times, so there is hope for legal cannabis in the Pennsylvania General Assembly yet. Pennsylvania lawmakers revealed their new plans for legalization last week, but it remains to be seen if it becomes formally introduced as a bill.
Additionally, Governor Wolf and those who support legal cannabis in Pennsylvania are hopeful that it will provide relief to people of color, who are disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.
If this new, very preliminary legislation is passed, a provision within the legal language would expunge prior cannabis convictions for all those who are eligible. Sponsored by Senator Sharif Street, the bill would be a huge step forward for the industry, but it remains to be seen if they will make a bold move and make Pennsylvania another major player in the national and global legal cannabis industry.