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There is a way to get a Marijuana related conviction cleared in PA

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Conviction for using weed following you around? Check out pardon program.

Filling out an application online as part of a one-time expedited process through the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons takes a few minutes, but it can change a lifetime.

The pardon is for select minor, non-violent marijuana criminal convictions.

More than 1,600 people have already applied for a pardon through the PA Marijuana Pardon Project.

"This is an opportunity for individuals who are seeking to move forward with their lives to get a second chance," Gov. Tom Wolf said in a media release. "I encourage anyone who may be eligible to apply today."

The Pennsylvania Board of Pardons is accepting applications through Friday, Sept. 30. The online application for an accelerated pardon through this one-time project is available at pa.gov/mjpardon. Once a person submits their application, they will be contacted if any necessary follow-up is needed.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman said nobody’s life and record should be ruined by using a plant.

“If you’re living your best life, I believe in a fresh start. Imagine not being able to volunteer at your kid’s school because of some stupid weed charge 20 years ago," he said. "The governor and I strongly believe in second chances.”

Anyone with only the two select marijuana offenses — possession of marijuana and/or marijuana, small amount personal use — on their record is eligible to apply. There is no limit for the age of the conviction.

"This process (that includes a public hearing before the board) is not to shame someone for criminal convictions. It is here for second chances," said state Secretary of Board of Pardons Celeste Trusty during a town hall with state Rep. Bob Merski, (D-Erie).

At the hearing the board members will more than likely ask the applicant such things as how has the conviction held them back, what have they done with their life since the conviction and how will the pardon benefit their life.

As for the basic information, all the board of pardons needs is three pieces of information that can be obtained from paperwork saved by the applicant or a search by name of the applicant on the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts portal. The portal can be found at https://ujsportal.pacourts.us.

The applicant needs the Offense Tracking Number, aka OTN, and the court docket number, as well as the county of conviction and some personal identification which can be found at either place.

If the conviction is too old to be on the portal, individuals can turn to their county clerk of court or prothonotary who can help them, Trusty said.

The application is "so minimal," she said. "The best thing about it is this pardon process is much faster. It can take years."

If someone is qualified and eligible that person could see their expedited marijuana-related conviction pardon by mid-January while Wolf is still governor, she said.

"It is absolutely incredible," Trusty said.

Those who are not eligible to apply for a pardon through this project because they have additional criminal convictions on their record are encouraged to apply for clemency using a standard application available at bop.pa.gov.

While a pardon constitutes complete forgiveness by the Commonwealth, those whose pardons are granted will still need to take another step by petitioning the court for an expungement of the conviction to clear their record.

"The pardon will remove the burden and barrier from their lives for something that most people consider it not a crime," Trusty said.

According to a Gallup poll, more Americans admitted to smoking marijuana than puffing on cigarettes. Gallup reported that 16% of Americans say they currently use marijuana, while just 11% say they smoke cigarettes.

Medical marijuana is now legal in most of the country, and marijuana is legal for recreational use in 19 states and the District of Columbia. 

If an applicant does not have access to the internet, that person can go to a local library or state representative or borough councils' offices to file an application, she said.

There are great resources on line and legal aid organizations to help applicants.

Since taking office, Governor Wolf has granted 2,098 pardons, 326 of those were part of an expedited review for nonviolent marijuana-related offenses. In the 15 years prior to Wolf’s term, only 1,805 pardons were granted in total.

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