Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf Releases Large Group Of Cannabis-Law Violators
Gov. Tom Wolf has signed off on 310 pardons, 69 of them impacting the lives of nonviolent cannabis law violators, whom criminal justice advocates say face a lifetime of for a crime that now is on a par with getting a traffic ticket in some jurisdictions across the state.
Wolf signed the pardons last week, his office said in a statement. The marijuana offenders were included in a new state program, started in 2019, under the auspices of Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who chairs the state Board of Pardons, and who has been an outspoken advocate of cannabis legalization. The program speeds up the lengthy pardons process for people with nonviolent convictions for marijuana possession or paraphernalia charges. Wolf has signed 95 pardons related to the expedited marijuana conviction review program, his office said in a statement.
“These pardons will give these 310 people a chance to put the conviction behind them, offering them more opportunities as they build careers, buy homes, and move on with their lives free of this burden,” Wolf said in a statement released by his office. “In particular, the nonviolent marijuana convictions-associated pardons have been expedited to make what was a years-long process now a matter of months.”
Wolf, a Democrat, has repeatedly called for legalizing recreational marijuana, a move that he said ”has bipartisan support,” because of the hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue it would pump into the state’s coffers. But, true to form as wet-blankets, Republicans who control the General Assembly largely have been bashing Wolf’s plan, at least for now.
In 2016, city officials in Harrisburg passed an ordinance that gave city police the option to file a summary citation and $75 fine, similar to a traffic ticket, to anyone caught with 30 grams or less of marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia, the Sentinel of Carlisle reported at the time. The fine for using a small amount of the drug is $150, the newspaper reported.
In 2018, four in 10 U.S. drug arrests were for marijuana-related offenses, mostly for possession, the Pew Research Center concluded in 2020.
However, Black and Brown Americans have disproportionately borne the brunt of those arrests.
A 2020 analysis by the American Civil Liberties Union found that “Black people are 3.64 times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession, notwithstanding comparable usage rates … “In every single state, Black people were more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, and in some states, Black people were up to six, eight, or almost ten times more likely to be arrested. In 31 states, racial disparities were actually larger in 2018 than they were in 2010.”
Meanwhile, “public support for marijuana legalization has steadily increased in recent years. In a Pew Research Center survey last September , two-thirds of U.S. adults said marijuana should be legal, up from around half (52 percent) five years earlier,” Pew researchers wrote. “The same survey found that 59 percent of adults believe marijuana should be legal for medical and recreational use, while 32 percent say it should be legal for medical use only. Just 8 percent of adults said it should not be legal under any circumstances.”
“It’s time for legal weed in Pennsylvania,” Lt Governor and cannabis ally John Fetterman said recently. “This is common sense criminal justice reform that will also generate billions when Pennsylvanians need it the most. It’s time to stop spending millions per year to ruin the lives of taxpayers who get caught doing something that most people don’t even think should be illegal.”
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