Pennsylvania residents convicted of low-level marijuana offenses can apply for an expedited pardon and have their record expunged within a year as part of a plan introduced by Gov. Tom Wolf, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Brandon Flood, secretary of the Board of Pardons.
The pardon could apply to those convicted of having a small amount of marijuana for personal use, possession of a small amount with the intent to distribute but not sell, possession of marijuana-related possession of paraphernalia, conspiracy and felony convictions.
The expedited review process does not guarantee a person will have their record erased, Flood said. Anyone with a violent conviction is not eligible. Those with multiple convictions must apply one at time, and the pardons only apply to those convicted, not just charged, he said.
“I want to emphasize that while we cut down on the red tape for pardons, these cases are not being rubber-stamped,” Wolf said. “But I also weigh the consequences of people continuing to carry a record when they have turned their lives around. By allowing more cases to be heard through the pardons process, we are treating people like individual human beings. It’s the right thing to do.”
Flood said he did not know how many of current pardon applications would be eligible for the expedited review process, but the board is reviewing them.
Earlier this year, the fee for applying for a pardon was eliminated, making it easier for those with convictions to apply, Fetterman said.
“The path already currently existed," Fetterman said. “I think metaphorically what we are doing is we are widening that path, that road, if you will, and we are cranking up the speed limit a little bit.”
Flood said he thinks marijuana convictions will no longer matter in the future.
“At least in my mind, it’s a forgone conclusion that Pennsylvania will legalize marijuana,” Flood said.
Wolf said last week he supports legalization of the drug for adult recreational use.
State Rep. David Delloso, D-Delaware, has proposed a bill that would allow stores to sell the drug through the regulated liquor store system. Delloso said in the memo for House Bill 1899 that legalizing cannabis use would create a $1.66 billion industry and add 18,000 jobs in the state. The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
Wolf also said he wants the Legislature to change misdemeanor marijuana offenses to summary offenses, which usually result in just fines.
“All of Pennsylvania benefits when we have more people working and fewer people in prison,” Wolf said.