Pardon Program for Low-Intensity Marijuana Crimes Opens in Pennsylvania | New

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvanians convicted of minor marijuana offenses may be eligible for a pardon through a unique grace program announced Thursday by Governor Tom Wolf and Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman.

Applications opened Thursday for the new Pennsylvania Marijuana Pardon Project.

The free application process is online only – www.pa.gov/guides/mj-pardon – with a deadline of September 30.

Following merit review sessions on October 13, the Pardons Board will recommend cases for approval to Wolf from December 13-16. Wolf is expected to act quickly before stepping out of office in January as a limited-term governor.

“I have repeatedly called on our Republican-led General Assembly to support the legalization of adult-use marijuana, but they have yet to respond to this call to action from myself and Pennsylvanians” , Wolf said in a press release. “Until they do, I pledge to do everything in my power to support Pennsylvanians who have been harmed by a minor marijuana-related offense on their record.”

Pardons are specific to convictions on two criminal charges where a person is found in possession of up to 30 grams of marijuana or up to eight grams of hash: Possession of Marijuana (Title 35, Section 780-113, Subdivision A31) and Marijuana, Small Amount Personal Use (Title 35, Section 780-113, Subsection A31I).

There is no age limit for conviction, but those with other convictions on their record are not eligible and it is recommended that they apply for clemency through the standard process.

Although a pardon constitutes a full pardon, those granted a pardon will still have to ask the court to expunge the conviction from their record.

“No one should be denied a job, housing or volunteering at your child’s school because of an old non-violent weed accusation, especially since most of us don’t even think that it should be illegal,” said Fetterman, the Democratic candidate for the United States. Senate.

Pennsylvania has approved marijuana for medical purposes, but it remains illegal for recreational use.

This spring, Muhlenberg College’s annual public health program survey showed 56% of Pennsylvanians support full legalization of marijuana compared to 25% in opposition, 18% with no position and 1% who were unsure.

Three separate hearings on proposals to legalize marijuana for adult use took place this year in the Pennsylvania Senate.

Patrick K. Nightingale, criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor, is the director of the Pittsburgh chapter of NORML – the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Eligibility might be limited, especially in rural counties, Nightingale said, because simple possession charges are often paired with drug paraphernalia charges. The possession charges carry maximum sentences of 30 days in jail, he said, compared to one year for the paraphernalia charge.

“The reason they do that, from my point of view as a defense attorney, is that they can lock someone up for a full year of probation,” Nightingale said, noting how probation imposes penalties. monitoring costs and therefore revenue for the counties. “They’ll deny it and say, ‘We’re not acting as a collection agency for the county. ”

Because the process is streamlined and urgent, Nightingale said he understands why the pardon program does not include paraphernalia convictions. Doing so would require a closer review of criminal records and affidavits to ensure that the number of paraphernalia was related to marijuana and not another substance.

Still, Nightingale said it’s refreshing that Wolf and Fetterman are working to lighten the charges faced by those convicted of low-level marijuana charges. Such convictions can interfere with getting a job or federal student loans, even gun purchases and concealed carry permit approvals.

“It can be a life-changing event. Now all of a sudden they don’t even have that minor conviction that could interfere with their ability to get a professional license,” Nightingale said.

According to Wolf’s office, he granted 2,098 pardons during his two terms, compared to 1,805 granted in the previous 15 years.

In his role as lieutenant governor, Fetterman chairs the Pardons Council and has worked to make the traditional pardons process easier, including waiving application fees.

He was targeted by opponents during the Senate campaign for his stance on pardons, in particular his advocacy to end mandatory life sentences without parole for second-degree murder convictions where the accused is an accomplice to a murder.

Jason Gottesman, spokesman for the House Republican Caucus, said the agenda promoted by Wolf and Fetterman failed to consider both the legislative process and the judicial process. He criticized her for being outside the normal pardon process, lacking “serious oversight” and picking winners and losers in the criminal justice reform process.

“At the end of the day, it reeks of the eleventh-hour desperation of an administration looking for a legacy. Instead of granting lightning-fast pardons based on what they want the law to be, they should instead be working with the legislature on real reform, not a sideshow for a major candidate,” Gottesman said.

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