Pennsylvania and cannabis have never really gone hand in hand. In fact, until 2016, cannabis use was illegal. In 2016, the government legalized medical marijuana use while continuing to condemn non-medical use to fines or jail time. Governor Tom Wolf has always been vocal about his belief that recreational cannabis should be legal in the state of Pennsylvania, but while waiting for this dream to come true, he has been pardoning several hundred non-violent, cannabis-related offenders. What was once a years-long process can now take just a few months with the new Expedited Review Program for Non-Violent Marijuana-Related Offenses, a program that was first created in 2019.
What Does This Mean for Future Cannabis Cases?
If you or someone you know has been convicted of a non-violent cannabis-related crime, you might be wondering what this means for the future of your case. Since non-medical use of cannabis has been illegal in Pennsylvania, the state charges most offenders with anything from probation to significant jail time for being caught using, carrying, or distributing the plant. But now, with this new review program, these offenders could be released into society and given the opportunity to put the convictions behind them, allowing them to move on with their lives.
Additionally, since the beginning of the pandemic, Pennsylvania has gotten firsthand exposure to how cannabis can boost the economy. There is now serious discussion about fully legalizing its use, which, in conjunction with this new program, means a lot fewer offenders behind bars. It would also provide the opportunity for prior non-violent cannabis offenders to have their records expunged.
Difference Between Pardon and Expungement
While pardon and expungement both allow an offender to move on with their lives, there is a significant difference. An offender files for an expungement themselves, or with an attorney’s help, and if awarded, an expungement gives them the ability to act as if the incident never happened in almost all instances. But a pardon is more about forgiveness. The offender and the state will always know that the incident happened, but they will no longer punish the offender for the former conviction. (If an offender seeks and is granted a pardon, they will often subsequently seek and be granted an expungement for various reasons, including the fact that the offender will want the criminal records expunged even if granted an expungement, and also the fact that an expungement after a pardon, although a necessary step, is essentially a formality after a pardon is granted.)
How an Attorney Can Help
With this new program and the Governor's belief in a legalized marijuana state, there is now hope for the families of non-violent cannabis offenders. An experienced attorney will ensure the government upholds your loved one's rights. They will gather evidence, draft and file the necessary paperwork, and work diligently to make sure their client can participate in this incredible program. Without an attorney's help, the process can feel overwhelming. Call 888-535-3686 today to schedule a consultation. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the team at Lento Law Firm have the skills and criminal law experience to help you and your family with the intricacies of this new program. Please don't suffer alone; let them help.