Everything You Need to Know About PA's Marijuana Pardon Project
PA’s new Marijuana Pardon Project is a potential game changer
If you have a past conviction for possession of marijuana in Pennsylvania, you’re going to want to keep reading. On September 2nd Pennsylvania announced its Marijuana Pardon Project. And this first of its kind program could make you eligible to get that conviction expunged by the end of the year.
Yes! Your read that correctly. Your marijuana possession charge could be expungement eligible by the end of the year! Here’s what you need to know to take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity.
The Marijuana Pardon Project vs the Typical Pardon Process
In case you weren’t aware, there are only three ways to expunge a conviction in Pennsylvania. You can:
- Wait until you turn 70
- Wait until you’ve been dead for 3 years, or
- Get a pardon from the governor
So a pardon is the best way to expunge a past conviction, unless you were born in the 1950s or you’re a zombie.
You may have also heard about record sealing, which allows certain convictions to be sealed after 10 years. However, record sealing does not completely destroy a criminal record. It just hides it. So if you want to apply for a concealed carry permit or apply for a government job, that record will still be standing in your way.
Now, it’s not as difficult to get a pardon as you may think. In fact, between 2019 and 2021, nearly 65% of filed applications have been granted, removing barriers and restoring rights for more than one thousand people who have already paid their debt to society. The problem is, the pardon process typically takes a long time. For most people the process takes about three years from start to finish. So this Marijuana Pardon Project is a huge deal.
Pennsylvania’s Marijuana Pardon Project will grant pardons to individuals who have past convictions for minor marijuana possession charges. The program will move much faster than the typical pardon process. Instead of taking a few years, the Board of Pardons is advertising that this process will only take a few months from start to finish. And at the end of the process, rights will be restored for all successful applicants. This includes the right to expunge their record.
Eligibility for the Marijuana Pardon Project
So who is eligible for the program? Only people previously convicted of “possession of marijuana” or a similar crime labeled “marijuana, small amount personal use” may apply for the program. Furthermore, you are ineligible if you have any other convictions on your record. So you’re not eligible for the program if you’ve ever been convicted of anything other than possession of marijuana.
If you think you qualify for the Marijuana Pardon Project, here’s what you should do.
First, create a Pennsylvania Keystone Login account. Second make sure you have all of the information you’ll need to complete the application. This includes basic personal info such as your address, phone number and social, as well as information about your case. Third, go to the application and apply.
This program is only open from September 1st to September 30th. And there’s no telling if we’ll ever see a program like this again. So don’t wait. If you’re eligible, apply now.
What if you’re not eligible?
If you’re not eligible for this program, but you have a past conviction standing between you and a better life you should seriously consider applying for a “regular” pardon. There are no eligibility requirements for a pardon in Pennsylvania, but I typically recommend that folks be at least a few years removed from completing their sentence before applying. That includes any probationary period.
Fact is, there’s probably never been a better time to apply for a pardon. Statistics show that more than half of those who apply can expect to receive a pardon. While it may take a few years to get through that process, it only takes a few hours to prepare the application. And once it’s submitted you can go on about your life as you wait for your 2nd chance to arrive.
So don’t let the past continue to define you. Even if you don’t qualify for Pennsylvania’s Marijuana Pardon Project, talk with a professional to find out if now is the right time to apply for a pardon. I’ve helped expunge thousands of criminal records in Pennsylvania, and I know what it takes to get a pardon. Give us a call, or drop us a line to learn more about how MZA Legal can help you get the second chance you deserve.