Marijuana

Marijuana Amnesty Program

In 2016, medical marijuana came to Pennsylvania.  In the fall of 2019, Pennsylvania’s Governor and Lt. Governor announced their support for decriminalizing recreational marijuana; and, as of September 2021, it looks like that effort is gaining bipartisan support in the General Assembly.  

Meanwhile, as to past offenses, the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons created an expedited review program for non-violent marijuana-specific convictions.  At that time, the Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts estimated that there had been roughly 57,000 such cases, mostly involving small amounts of marijuana, disposed of over the preceding 10 years.   Hearing only 200 or so such cases every year, it will take the Board of Pardons -and the Governor- roughly forever to make their way through the past, unless the legislature legalizes pot retroactively.

With the Good Green Grant made on October 14, 2021, Green Thumb Industries launched PLSE’s effort to greatly increase the number of marijuana-related cases reaching the PA Board of Pardons for hearings within one year of submission.

To be part of this effort:

  1. The crime CAN involve the purchase, possession, use, manufacture, distribution and/or sale of marijuana and/or paraphernalia, and must be listed within Section 13 of the Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act of 1972; and, 
  2. The crime CANNOT involve any “act of violence” as the Board has defined that term; and
  3. The crime CANNOT involve “driving under the influence” except if the individual was a medical marijuana cardholder at the time of the incident.

The program is for anyone whose marijuana-related conviction was in Philadelphia County. To apply, click on this link: www.plsephilly.org/intake. The service is free for any Philadelphia resident whose household income is below 200% of the federal poverty line.

Note: We are aware that the proper word for the drug is cannabis, but we have deliberately chosen not to use it. The word “marijuana” originated in hostility to immigrants coming into the United States from Mexico, and law enforcement against the drug is inextricably tied to racist narratives and race-conscious enforcement. For those reasons, too, amnesty – meaning, a “general pardon” – is what is deserved, by all.

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