Pennsylvania officials want to make sure that people who applied for marijuana pardons under a one-time program aren’t denied the relief due to a technicality.
The Board of Pardons (BOP), which facilitated the PA Marijuana Pardon Project that the governor launched last month, voted last week to hold the roughly 3,500 applications they received under advisement until partnering state agencies carry out a review to ensure that all eligible applicants are properly considered.
BOP Secretary Celeste Trusty told Marijuana Moment on Tuesday that the board identified “quite a few folks who entered incorrect data” on their applications, which may be due to accidentally entering the wrong docket number for their cannabis case or other minor errors on the online form.
“We want to ensure that applicants are not deemed ineligible for the PA Marijuana Pardon Project because of a simple typo,” Trusty said. “Our partners in the PA Marijuana Pardon Project are going above and beyond to make this a successful process for as many eligible applicants as possible.”
It’s not clear how many people may have inadvertently submitted applications with incorrect information, or how long the review process will take, but the board’s vote reflects a commitment to maximizing the impact of the pardon initiative from Gov. Tom Wolf (D) and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D), a U.S. Senate candidate who also chairs BOP.
Today’s merit review session of the PA Board of Pardons begins at 3pm.
Members of the public are able to call in to listen to the session.
For more information, please visit our website. https://t.co/p5XFLkqA9E
— PA Board of Pardons (@BoardOfPardons) October 13, 2022
The board also recently released a geographic breakdown showing how many applications were submitted in each county. Submissions came from 66 out of 67 counties across the Keystone State, with the majority of applications being sent from Dauphin and York counties.
“It really is absolutely incredible to see that as we work through the data to find out who is eligible and who is ineligible, we can hopefully impact so many people’s lives in the next few months and be able to help them get on their way to a clear record,” Trusty told Fox 43.
People with certain cannabis convictions involving up to 30 grams of marijuana or eight grams of hashish were eligible for the streamlined program.
Fetterman told Marijuana Moment earlier this month that while the pardons will meaningfully benefit thousands of Pennsylvanians, “the only lasting relief will come when our Republican legislature finally decides to do the right thing and legalize it.”
The lieutenant governor previously said that he wants to process cannabis clemency for as many people as possible before leaving office.
While pardons represent full forgiveness for the conviction, the governor’s office has stressed that eligible people will still need to separately petition the courts to have their records formally expunged.
Trusty, Fetterman and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) separately talked about marijuana reform and the pardon program during the 5th annual Cannabis Opportunities Conference in Pennsylvania late last month.
Fetterman said that “Pennsylvania is a place for a second chances” and the initiative would “help people get pardons quickly for stupid weed convictions” while the legislature stalls on legalization.
A poll released last month found that two in three Pennsylvania voters say they support marijuana legalization, which should be welcome news for Fetterman as his GOP Senate opponent levies attacks over the candidate’s support for drug policy reform.
Also last month, President Joe Biden and Fetterman briefly discussed marijuana policy reform during a meeting near Pittsburgh on Labor Day. Weeks later, the president issued a mass pardon for people who’ve committed federal cannabis possession offenses.
Wolf, meanwhile, signed a medical cannabis expansion bill last year, and he’s repeatedly called for legalization and pressured the Republican-controlled legislature to pursue the reform since coming out in favor of the policy in 2019.
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Last year, Wolf pardoned a doctor who was arrested, prosecuted and jailed for growing marijuana that he used to provide relief for his dying wife. That marked his 96th pardon for people with cannabis convictions through an ongoing Expedited Review Program for Non-Violent Marijuana-Related Offenses.
In the Pennsylvania legislature, a Senate committee held the last of three scheduled hearings on marijuana legalization in March, taking testimony meant to help inform a reform bill that the panel’s chairman said he was actively drafting.
Sen. Mike Regan (R), who chairs the committee, circulated a cosponsorship memo last year along with Rep. Amen Brown (D) to build support for the policy change.
Sens. Dan Laughlin (R) and Street separately filed a legalization bill last year, as did Reps. Jake Wheatley (D) and Dan Frankel (D). But neither cleared the legislature by the end of the session.