Gov. Tom Wolf is keenly aware that decriminalizing marijuana in Pennsylvania will require a protracted political battle.
So, in the meantime, he and Board of Pardons Chairman and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman have rolled out an expedited pardons process that takes effect immediately for people with marijuana convictions, ranging from misdemeanor possession all the way up to certain felonies. Instead of the typical 2½-year wait time, they could get their cases expunged in one year or less. Fetterman previously announced that the board eliminated the $63 fee from pardon applications.
“Minor offenses should not carry life sentences,” Wolf said at a news conference Wednesday, describing the ways a criminal record serves as a barrier to employment, housing, and education long after any jail time or probation has concluded.
The governor is advocating for marijuana possession, currently classified as a misdemeanor, to be knocked down to a summary offense, and for expungement of old misdemeanor convictions for possession of marijuana or related paraphernalia.
Fetterman acknowledged it’s an incremental advancement.
“This path already existed," he said. "Now what we’re doing is we’re widening that path, that road, if you will, and we’re cranking up the speed limit.”
Fetterman and Wolf, both Democrats, noted this is just one part of Wolf’s broader push to legalize — and regulate — recreational marijuana, announced last week after Fetterman’s statewide listening tour, which found widespread public support for legalization.
In response to that announcement, House Republican leadership issued an unambiguous statement: “Our caucus has no plans or interest in legalizing recreational marijuana.”