Pennsylvania's Governor Will Issue Mass Pardons to Thousands of Minor Cannabis Offenders
Governor Tom Wolf is offering clemency to people who have been caught with weed, but anyone who wants a pardon must file an application by the end of the month.
Published on September 7, 2022

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf is preparing to issue mass pardons to thousands of people who have been busted for minor, non-violent weed crimes in the Keystone State.

The governor’s plan, which was developed with fellow cannabis advocate Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, will allow certain cannabis offenders to apply for fast-track pardons. Anyone who has been arrested in Pennsylvania for the specific crimes of Possession of Marijuana or Marijuana, Small Amount Personal Use is eligible to apply for an expedited pardon under this new program. 

“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,” Gov. Wolf said in a press release. “Now’s your chance.”

The state Board of Pardons will accept applications for expedited pardons until the end of the month. Individuals must submit an application in order to be considered for a pardon, but the process is free and can be completed online. Applicants will be notified if they will receive a hearing for their case by October 13th. The board will conduct the hearings in December, and Wolf will issue the pardons next January before he leaves office.

There is no limit on the age of the conviction, but anyone who has other convictions on their criminal record is not eligible for this new program. These individuals are still able to apply for a regular, non-expedited pardon, however. And although the pardons grant complete forgiveness for these minor weed crimes, the original conviction information will remain visible on offenders' criminal records. People who receive these pardons can apply to have their records expunged, but it's a completely separate process.

“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,” said Fetterman, who is now running for Senate.

Even though adult-use weed is still illegal in Pennsylvania, its Democratic leaders are taking action to right the wrongs of the senseless War on Drugs. Wolf has already individually pardoned over 300 cannabis offenders, and the governors of Colorado, Nevada, Illinois, and Washington have pardoned tens of thousands more. California, New Jersey, and many other adult-use states have also collectively expunged the criminal records of over two million former pot offenders.

Most US presidents, even Trump, have used their executive powers to grant clemency to nonviolent cannabis offenders. President Biden has promised to free thousands of people serving time for minor pot crimes, but he has freed fewer than 100 pot offenders since taking office. Biden has the power to mass pardon thousands of people at one time, but he has so far shown no interest in actually doing so.

“Tens of thousands of Americans unduly carry the burden and stigmatization of a past conviction for behavior that most Americans, and a growing number of states, no longer consider to be a crime,” said NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano in a statement. “Our sense of justice and our principles of fairness demand that officials continue to take action in order to right the past wrongs of cannabis prohibition and criminalization.”

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Chris Moore
Chris Moore is a New York-based writer who has written for Mass Appeal while also mixing records and producing electronic music.
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