State Senator Mike Stack (D-Philadelphia) announced two new bills at a news conference in Harrisburg yesterday. Senate Bill 1307 would make possession of less than an ounce of marijuana a summary offense for the first two offenses and provide discretion to the district attorney for subsequent offenses. Senate Bill 1308 would allow those convicted of certain misdemeanor marijuana offenses to expunge the conviction if they go five years without an arrest.
Who Will Be Eligible to Expunge Their Marijuana Criminal Records?
Both bills would have a significant, positive effect on the number of people eligible for an expungement in Pennsylvania. Currently, summary offenses are one of the few types of convictions that are eligible to be expunged. Summary offense convictions can be expunged if five years have passed since the conviction and the petitioner has been free of arrest or conviction during that time. SB 1307 would place some marijuana possession offenses into this category of offense, and therefore would allow these cases to be expunged after the five-year waiting period has been met.
Pennsylvania Senate Bill 1308 Reform
SB 1308 takes this one step further and would allow former offenders who were convicted of these less serious marijuana cases to have their offense expunged if they satisfy the five-year waiting period. This law would apply to marijuana offenses occurring in the past and, even though the offense was classified as a misdemeanor at the time of conviction, would permit expungement similar to how summary offenses are eligible under the current law.
Senator Stack on Marijuana Laws
Sen. Stack said at the news conference that the current marijuana law wastes resources. These cases consume the time of law enforcement and the criminal justice system that could be better spent arresting and prosecuting violent criminals. Additionally, convictions for possession of small amounts of marijuana prevent individuals who have been rehabilitated from securing good employment.
Expungement of these low-level offenses will help former offenders get a job and break the cycle of crime. SB 1307 would provide for expungement of these offenses going forward, and SB 1308 allows those with a prior low-level marijuana offense to also receive the benefits of an expungement.
With the introduction of this bill, the Pennsylvania legislature now has two separate expungement bills pending; Senate Bill 391, which would permit expungement of a wider range of misdemeanor offenses, is still awaiting a vote in the House Judiciary Committee. For more information, read our previous article covering Senate Bill 391.
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