Thousands eligible for expedited pardons of marijuana convictions

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Pennsylvania’s top leaders released details Wednesday of a new, expedited pardons process for marijuana convictions.

Tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians are eligible.

The state says it usually takes about two and a half years to get a pardon, no matter the offense. Now, the Board of Pardons is hoping to get low-level marijuana convictions off of people’s records within a year.

“We’re cranking up the speed limit a little bit,” said Lt. Gov. John Fetterman. “We’re expediting this process.”

The Board of Pardons used to look at all crimes the same, but it’s starting to investigate nonviolent marijuana offenses differently.

“Everyone has the same level of review, whether I’m convicted of first-degree murder or I stole a sandwich from Sheetz,” Board of Pardons Secretary Brandon Flood said. “With these specific crimes, we won’t have that same level of review.”

While some may point to the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program or the Clean Slate Law, the state says changing the pardons process for these convictions now will save people thousands of dollars and years of time.

“For a nickel bag or a roach … one would have to wait 10 years in order to receive relief through that program,” Flood said.

“Expunging convictions of marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia charges and the decriminalization of these charges will take an act of legislation and that, of course, will take some time,” Gov. Tom Wolf said.

The goal of the policy switch is to increase access to education, housing and jobs.

“There’s tens of thousands of these types of arrests throughout Pennsylvania every year,” Fetterman said.

“I want to emphasize while we cut down on the red tape for pardons, these cases are not being rubber-stamped,” Wolf said. “I factor in the effect a pardon will have on past victims and the likelihood to re-offend.”

The Board of Pardons waived its fee earlier this year, so applying for a pardon is free and it can be done online.

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