(Pittsburgh City Paper photo)
(*This story was updated at 12:08 p.m. on Thursday, 9/1/22 to include comment from House Republican spokesperson Jason Gottesman)
With months left to go at the helm, the Wolf administration on Thursday announced it’s launching what it’s describing as a “one-time, large-scale pardoning project,” for people convicted of minor, non-violent marijuana offenses.
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, joined by Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who chairs the state Board of Pardons, and who is a longtime advocate for marijuana legalization, said in a statement that he was undertaking the move in the absence of legislative action on legalization by the Republican-controlled General Assembly.
“Until they do, I am committed to doing everything in my power to support Pennsylvanians who have been adversely affected by a minor marijuana offense on their record,” Wolf said, adding that the pardon push has “the potential to open the door for thousands of Pennsylvanians.”
*In a statement, Jason Gottesman, a spokesman for majority House Republicans lacerated the announcements, accusing the administration of doing an end-run on the General Assembly with a “literal get out of jail free card,” that is “outside the normal scope of the pardons process, lacks serious oversight, and does even more to pick winners and losers in the criminal justice reform process.
“Ultimately, it reeks of 11th hour desperation from an Administration in search of a legacy,” Gottesman, continued. “Instead of granting hyper-light speed pardons based on what they wish the law to be, they instead should work with the Legislature on real reform, not a sideshow for a major office candidate.”
The latter is a reference to Fetterman, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, who is vying with Republican celebrity physician Mehmet Oz in a nationally watched race for the seat being vacated by Republican Pat Toomey of Lehigh County. The race is one of several that will determine the balance of power in the upper chamber.
The state Pardons Board began accepting applications for the PA Marijuana Pardon Project on Thursday, with the window for applications closing on Sept. 30.
People with the following marijuana convictions are eligible to apply for the program. There is no time limit on the age of the conviction, the administration said.
- Possession of Marijuana (Title 35 Section 780-113 Subsection A31)
- Marijuana, Small Amount Personal Use (Title 35 Section 780-113 Subsection A31I)
Eligible Pennsylvanians can apply here. Once they submit their application, they’ll be contacted if any follow-up is needed, the administration said. People who are not eligible to apply because they have additional criminal convictions on their record are encouraged to apply for clemency using a standard application available at bop.pa.gov, the administration said.
And “while a pardon constitutes complete forgiveness, those whose pardons are granted will still need to petition the court for an expungement of the conviction from their record,” the administration said in its statement.
Fetterman said in a statement that the project will deliver second chances to thousands of the commonwealth’s residents.
“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,” Fetterman said.
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