Wolf: Marijuana pardons won’t be rubber-stamped
A week after Lt. Gov. John Fetterman urged Pennsylvanians with low-level, nonviolent marijuana convictions to apply for expedited pardons, Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday cautioned that such pardons will not be automatically approved.
Fetterman, who chairs the board of pardons, joined Wolf last week in announcing their support for decriminalizing low-level marijuana possession and the legalization of adult recreational marijuana. They said they reached that conclusion after weighing input from a series of public hearings Fetterman conducted in every county across the state.
Wolf said he subsequently met with Fetterman and Brandon Flood, secretary of the Board of Pardons, to explore an expedited process for those with low-level marijuana convictions.
“I want to emphasize that while we cut down on the red tape for pardons, these cases are not being rubber-stamped,” Wolf said. “I read each recommended case individually and weigh the decision carefully. I factor in the effect a pardon will have on past victims and the likelihood to reoffend. But I also weigh the consequences of people continuing to carry a record when they have turned their lives around. By allowing more cases to be heard through the pardons process, we are treating people like individual human beings. It’s the right thing to do.”
Flood said the board is reviewing pardon applications to determine how many meet the criteria of nonviolent, small-amount marijuana possession and/or possession of marijuana paraphernalia, and how the board could address these in its review process, while legislation is being considered.
He characterized the current effort as “an attempt to balance the scales of justice” as the state’s policies on marijuana evolve.
Pennsylvania is among 33 states that have legalized medical marijuana. Eleven states have legalized recreational cannabis, while 15 states have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana.
In a news conference Wednesday, Fetterman reiterated his call for those with low-level marijuana convictions to apply for a pardon.
“Anyone with a marijuana-related, nonviolent possession or paraphernalia charge is encouraged to apply for a pardon, for free, and have his or her application expedited,” Fetterman said. “Given the favorable sentiment to legalizing marijuana, there’s no reason records of this nature should continue to hinder people from living their most productive lives.”
Deb Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Deb at 724-850-1209, [email protected] or via Twitter .