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Update on Gov. Wolf’s Marijuana Pardon Project: Who Will Be Receiving a Pardon?

December 21, 2022

A recent article from the Philadelphia Inquirer found that only 231 people of the 2,600 that applied to the Pennsylvania Marijuana Pardon Project will receive a final public hearing on their pardon application.

Chris Goldstein, a regional organizer for NORML and MCRC Speaker Series presenter, was quoted in the Inquirer article as to why the numbers from Gov. Wolf’s Marijuana Pardon Project are so low. Goldstein said that the low number of approved applications to qualify for a pardon was caused by the limited month-long timeframe to apply and the restriction of cannabis possession being a standalone charge. According to Goldstein, people who are arrested for marijuana (cannabis) possession are often given a related charge for paraphernalia, such as pipes or rolling papers for personal consumption. Any additional related charge automatically disqualifies the person from the Pardon Project even if the charges were non-violent.

Goldstein also noted that the recent announcement from President Biden on his granting of mass federal pardons for cannabis possession is similarly narrow in that a person cannot have any related or additional charges to the possession of cannabis. President Biden pardoned 6,500 people including  Goldstein who received a federal possession charge when he was a leading a cannabis prohibition protest.

Despite the barriers for a large amount of people with cannabis-related charges on their record, these pardons do have a significant impact on the lives of those who ultimately receive them. Specifically, cannabis convictions can be barriers to finding employment, housing, funding for higher education, and many other important determinants of health.

Goldstein voiced this sentiment in the Inquirer article by saying, “to those 231 people like me with my federal pardon, it is going to mean something significant in their lives. A pardon, when nothing else is being done, is something.”