Popular opinion in favor of the legalization of marijuana has never been stronger. According to an October 2019 Gallup poll, support for legal marijuana has risen to 66 percent nationwide. Along with this support for legalization, there is a growing call to address the impact a conviction for marijuana possession can have on a person. Many states are considering legislation that not only legalizes recreational marijuana use but also addresses those with prior convictions that would be exempt under the new law.
There are multiple pieces of legislation under consideration in the Pennsylvania legislature. Each of these pieces of legislation attempts to tackle not only the legalization of marijuana but also the process of expunging prior convictions.
Senate Bill 350
Introduced in October of 2019 by state senators Daylin Leach and Sharif Street, Senate Bill 350 was referred to as the “gold standard” by the director of the Keystone Cannabis Coalition. However, it arguably takes a weaker approach to the social justice aspects of marijuana incarceration than some of the other bills.
Senate Bill 350 would expunge cannabis-related convictions from a person's criminal record upon passage. It would also commute the sentence of anyone currently serving a marijuana-related criminal sentence, and dismiss all pending marijuana charges in state court.
House Bill 2050
Introduced in February of 2020, House Bill 2050 is state representative Jake Wheatley's revamped approach at a recreational marijuana bill. This house bill would decriminalize the possession of cannabis, expunge all marijuana-related convictions, and provide for the release of inmates once their conviction is expunged. The bill would even reinstate professional licenses and driving privileges lost due to the conviction.
House Bill 1899
Authored by Delaware County representative Dave Delloso, House Bill 1899 largely mirrors House Bill 2050 when it comes to the criminal justice impact. This includes everything from expungement to release from jail and even professional licensing reinstatement. The two bills primarily differ over taxation and grower licensing issues.
Roadblocks to Passage
Despite the popularity of legalized marijuana, little action has been taken on these proposals. For example, the Rural and Agricultural Affairs committee has made no effort to advance Senate Bill 350 since it was filed at the end of 2019.
While public opinion is united, there has been little bipartisan agreement thus far. To date, no Republican members of either house have signed on as a co-sponsor for this legislation. While movement in recreational marijuana is likely in time, the reality is progress might not occur overnight.
The Value of Experienced Expungement Attorneys
Until Pennsylvania enacts a proposal similar to those discussed above, arrests for possession of marijuana will remain one of the most commonly-cited offenses in the Commonwealth.
There are some circumstances where an arrest or conviction for a marijuana-related offense could be eligible for expungement under current state law. This process is complex, and success is never guaranteed. You can greatly increase your chances by working closely with an attorney that understands the expungement process. To learn more, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today at 215-535-5353.