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PA Rejects Over 90% of Cannabis Pardon Applicants in Disappointing Attempt at Reform

By: Buz Deliere | December 5, 2022

While Pennsylvania's marijuana pardon project initially promised a chance of redemption for thousands convicted of minor possession charges, the endeavor has been largely unsuccessful in clearing applicants from their records.

Of 3,500 clemency applications submitted over one month, officials have only tentatively considered 231 - leaving many individuals still awaiting answers to potentially life-altering questions about their future.

In October, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) created a new chance for citizens to seek freedom from the burden of minor cannabis possession convictions on their records through his statewide pardon initiative - offering those previously convicted an opportunity at redemption and second chances in life.

Thousands of people in Pennsylvania who applied to have their criminal records expunged did not receive the pardons they expected, according to PennLive. The Administration and Board Of Pardons (BOP) drew many hopeful applicants but ultimately disappointed them with what seemed like a system gone astray.

In late October, the board faced an unexpected surge of 3,500 applications which prompted them to pause and seek assistance from partnering state agencies. This was in order to verify and review that everyone had a fair chance at consideration for their program - after finding out several applications had typos or incorrect information that was being denied.

Despite increased optimism for a greater number of successful pardon applications, 231 individuals have been identified by the review process as the only ones eligible to receive commutations later this month. The fate of these applicants rests in the hands of Pennsylvania's Board for a final review.

Although the reasons for so many being denied remain largely unknown, speculation suggests that technical issues with submissions and criminal records omitted from the application may be to blame for why a majority of applicants were denied. Could this uncover even deeper problems in the state’s cannabis pardon process?

During the 5th annual Cannabis Opportunities Conference in Pennsylvania, John Fetterman and U.S. Senator Cory Booker each spoke passionately about cannabis reform by stressing the necessity of a pardon program to help people receive second chances from weed convictions before proper legalization is established at a state level.

The Pennsylvania pardon project launched in anticipation of President Biden's unprecedented proclamation that pardoned federal marijuana possession offenses. This groundbreaking measure provides a major step forward for those who have been unfairly impacted by outdated laws.

Former President Joe Biden recently praised Oregon's governor for their remarkable action to pardon 45,000 people in the state. That vast number stands starkly against Pennsylvania’s paltry 200 applicants that are expecting pardons.

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