The lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania is moving up his drive to get cannabis records discharged, supporting an expedited petition plan that he hopes will grant relief to thousands of individuals negatively impacted by cannabis prohibition and the failed war on drugs.
In a dialogue with KDKA that aired recently, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D-PA) said one of his major goals in his last year in office is to secure that as many eligible individuals as possible submit applications to have the Pennsylvania courts discharge their cannabis records and restore possibilities to things such as housing, financial aid, and employment.
‘I’m a zealous believer in second chances. Plus one of the things I quickly realized was that somebody’s life was just being ruined by certain silly charges and fines, and you have all this random review in an effort to expunge records,’ Fetterman, who leads the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons, generally stated.
‘[Cannabis] is a plant that’s legal in a variety of jurisdictions across the nation, and it’s not a big deal, but you go through your entire existence in most cases a convicted felon, and that bars you from a lot of real-life opportunities,” he virtually stated. ‘So I planned an expedited review process that I urge everybody to partake in.’
There are roughly 20,000 cannabis-related incidents in Pennsylvania each year, the lieutenant governor stated. And some cases that qualify go back decades, including a particular case that recently went through the cannabis petition channel where a man had a felony sentence on his record for ownership of eight ounces of cannabis that dates back all the way to 1975.
‘If you’ve got some stupid charge like that on your record, it doesn’t cost anything to apply, and we can get that off your permanent record,” the lieutenant governor said. “I don’t care how conservative or how liberal you are political. I don’t think we as a society should be really damaging people’s future for consuming a plant that is now legal in many jurisdictions—and soon will be in Pennsylvania.’
While Fetterman and Gov. Tom Wolf (D) back mass expungements of cannabis sentences, he states that, right now, this is ‘the only way to clear records.’
However, the official is optimistic about the likelihood of future cannabis reform to both legalize cannabis in the state and grant an even more efficient process to get past cannabis convictions sealed. He noted a cannabis legalization bill that was recently registered by a Republican lawmaker as an instance of the ‘evolution towards cannabis reform’ and explained the legislation’s synopsis as “a quantum leap” in acknowledging cannabis reform.
At this time, however, the lieutenant governor is doing what he can to raise awareness about the streamlined cannabis petition program supported by the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons. Individuals with non-violent cannabis sentences can apply for no charge on the board’s website.
‘I’m lieutenant governor for a little nearly a year and a half, and we want to get as many individuals free of these silly cannabis convictions and charges that are weighing their record down,’ Fetterman summarized. The application doesn’t cost a dime. No one is going to need an attorney. And the Board’s turnaround time is, at this time, as short as three to four months.’
Earlier this spring, Wolf pardoned a physician who was arrested, indicted, and imprisoned for cultivating cannabis that he used to grant relief for his terminal wife. That marked the governor’s 96th pardon for individuals with cannabis crimes via the Expedited Review Program for Non-Violent Cannabis-Related Offenses.
It sounds like the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons is serious about cannabis reform.