A week ago, Governor Tom Wolf and Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman revealed their plans for a one-time coordinated effort to pardon thousands of Pennsylvanians jailed for minor, non-violent cannabis-related charges. The initiative, dubbed the Pennsylvania Marijuana Pardon Project, will be open to people with certain minor, non-violent cannabis criminal convictions. These convictions could include possession with intent to sell or use cannabis.
In his press briefing, Governor Wolf said that he has called on the Republican-led state legislature to legalize recreational cannabis. But despite his many calls for cannabis measures, the general assembly has continued to turn a deaf ear to his calls and the wishes of most residents. Like Wolf, lieutenant governor Fetterman also supports cannabis legislation. Both executive leaders say they remain committed to helping residents negatively impacted by the war on cannabis.
Pennsylvania has a legal, medical marijuana market, which it legalized in 2016. In a recent survey, it was discovered that at least 58% of registered voters are in support of further cannabis reforms.
A chance for all Pennsylvanians
The absence of an adult-use cannabis measure in Pennsylvania has resulted in thousands of residents being rejected for much-needed jobs, assistance, and opportunities. This proposed effort by the state government will give everyone a chance to kick-start their career, go on tours, receive help, and register for opportunities. According to the Governor and his lieutenant, applications for marijuana pardons will be handled by the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons.
Although thousands of Pennsylvanians are eligible for this pardon, only those who submit applications will be considered first. Anyone with a non-violent cannabis conviction from the past several decades is eligible to apply. The PA marijuana pardon program is open to Pennsylvanians of all ages with up to two cannabis offenses on their records.
Eligible Candidates Can Now Apply
Soon after the Governor briefed the press last Thursday, the doors were opened for pardon applications to be submitted. This submission process will continue until the end of the month, Friday, September 30, 2022. Affected residents can apply for an accelerated pardon via the one-time initiative online. The process is seamless. Once the applicant submits their documents, they will be contacted weeks later for further inquiries or follow-up procedures.
The pardon project is open to people with one or two convictions for low-level cannabis possession or use. The program coordinators have a list of specified offenses that would be considered for this project. Lt. Gov Fetterman promised that the initiative would give many families second chances to stand out and succeed in the state. The state's second in command explained that the current laws had hurt deserving Pennsylvanians. No one deserves to be refused housing, employment, or volunteering services at regular functions because of a minor, non-violent weed conviction. It's even worse for adults who got their convictions decades ago when the schedule 1 list was first introduced.
Fetterman says that the commonsense approach to dealing with all these is a measure to legalize the drug; however, since the GOP lawmakers have refused to do what's right, the Marijuana Pardon Project is the next best thing that could occur. "Most of these charges hindering residents from progressing in their careers or having better lives should even be considered illegal in this time and age," explained Fetterman.
A ploy to get reelected or not?
Speculations are flying about that the Governor and his vice are doing this to achieve democratic victory in the forthcoming November elections. The two leading party candidates running for Governor of Pennsylvania are radically opposed to marijuana reform, with one supporting legalization and the other calling it a "dumb notion" that has turned other states into run tunnels. A brief look at the history of the Governor and his lieutenant's support for cannabis before and during office shows that they've always been for cannabis reforms.
Throughout his term, Wolf has made criminal justice reform a top priority, making Pennsylvania a pioneer in pardon reform. Wolf has pardoned 2,098 people since assuming office; 326 were included in a comprehensive assessment for minor marijuana-related charges. In the 15 years prior to Wolf's administration, Pennsylvania only issued 1,805 pardons.
On the other hand, Fetterman is known for attracting the wrath of Republican legislators when he raised a cannabis leaf flag from the terrace at his state office building. He recently won the Democratic Party's nomination for the Senate seat vacated by Republican Senator Pat Toomey. According to Fetterman, Democratic success in this year's general election may depend on support for cannabis legislation. On Labor Day, when they were both in Pittsburgh for the city's holiday celebration, he urged the president, Joe Biden to use his executive powers in hastening the decriminalizatiom of cannabis.
Fetterman, who previously served as former mayor of the small Rust Belt town of Braddock, Pennsylvania, criticized his opponent Dr. Mehmet Oz and his current anti-cannabis stance in a statement released Monday.
He said he had no desire to listen to anything coming from Oz's campaign attempting to equate cannabis decriminalization with very detrimental criminality. "Are we to genuinely think that neither he nor his staff has ever used marijuana?" he asked. "I made it my job as mayor of Braddock to tackle major crime. I've personally seen what true crime looks like. Marijuana does not meet the criteria. Fetterman exclaimed that it is high time for all parties to move past their hypocrisy on topics related to cannabis use.
The criticism of Fetterman's stance on marijuana legalization comes despite Oz's past support for marijuana legislative changes, including a 2020 interview in which he stated that marijuana is one of the most underutilized tools in America and that the country needs to alter its stance on marijuana radically.
Wolf and Fetterman's goal to pardon thousands of Pennsylvanians for minor cannabis charges may be the state's only chance at effecting cannabis reform projects. This is because cannabis legalization hasn't been a prominent topic in the upcoming gubernatorial race in the state. As expected, the success of this program may convince the Republican-led legislature of the need to introduce cannabis reform, in addition to swaying the popular votes in Democratic favor in the coming elections.