Pennsylvania residents who have been convicted of non-violent marijuana offenses should apply for a pardon, and the Commonwealth will expedite that process, according to Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman. As part of the plan to try to eventually legalize recreational use of the drug in Pennsylvania, Governor Tom Wolf announced just last month that his first step in achieving this goal is to expedite pardons to people with past marijuana convictions.

A pardon is often the first step in applying for expungement, which occurs in the county where charges were filed. A pardon essentially means the state has forgiven a crime—as if it never occurred. You then still have to petition the court where the conviction happened to start the expungement process. But eventually, an expungement will remove the conviction from an individual’s criminal record on the public domain.

In most parts of Pennsylvania, possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor charge. It’s only a summary offense in places that have decriminalized it, like the cities of Harrisburg and Philadelphia. Summary offenses are eligible for expungement after five years. Misdemeanor offenses, however, specifically ones related to marijuana, could only be expunged in a few not-so-convenient ways: If you’re over the age of 70 or if you’ve passed away. So a normal misdemeanor conviction for a small amount of marijuana was not eligible for expungement unless a Governor’s pardon was granted.

Subsequently, Governor Wolf and the Board of Pardons Chairman, led by Lieutenant Governor Fetterman, have introduced an expedited process that takes effect immediately for people with marijuana convictions, ranging from misdemeanor possession and/or possession of paraphernalia and in some cases all the way up to certain felony possessions. Instead of the typical two and a half year wait time, people could get their cases expunged in one year or less. The Board of Pardons has created a special stream for these marijuana-related applications, allowing them to be heard more quickly. The pardon process has been behind the times up to this point. Everything is done on paper and is backlogged. The Governor and Board of Pardons plan to change that in the next year. In addition, the Board of Pardons waived its previous $63 fee, so applying for a marijuana-related pardon is now free.

The Clean Slate Bill also went into effect this year, which could automatically seal the record of a marijuana misdemeanor without petitioning a court, but you have to wait 10 years after the conviction, and remain conviction and arrest free.

If you have a marijuana-related offense on your record, contact Mooney Law at 833-MOONEYLAW to schedule a consultation with an attorney regarding your eligibility for a pardon and assistance with the filing process. With 14 offices throughout Central Pennsylvania and Northern Maryland, we stand ready to fight for you.  You can Count on Mooney Law.