Pa. bill would expunge pot convictions for people with medical conditions
A bill proposed Monday by a Montgomery County Democrat would allow people convicted of marijuana possession to get their convictions expunged if they prove they had the drugs for medical reasons.
Medical marijuana has been legal in Pennsylvania since February for people with at least one of 17 conditions, including cancer, glaucoma, seizures or other specified chronic conditions. Under the bill by state Sen. Daylin Leach, people convicted of marijuana possession must be able to show they had been diagnosed with one of the conditions at the time of their conviction.
“It is cruel to punish people simply because they were using medicine to try to make themselves feel better for a condition that the Legislature has now approved the use of medical marijuana for,” Leach said in a statement. “This will give people the opportunity to go to court and prove they do not deserve to have a criminal record.”
Leach’s proposal, Senate Bill 1160, does not have any Republican co-sponsors, spokesman Zak Pyzik said. Republicans hold the majority in both the state House and Senate.
Patrick Nightingale, executive director of the Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Society, said Leach’s bill is a needed piece of legislation.
“Sen. Leach’s proposed legislation is a significant step in rectifying the harm caused by Pennsylvania’s legacy of cannabis prohibition,” Nightingale said.
“What was left unspoken (when the medical marijuana law took effect in February) was the fact that many critically ill Pennsylvanians were already utilizing medical cannabis, have been for years and likely picked up a criminal conviction along the way,” Nightingale said. “The very least that we can do is help these patients clear their record.”
Suzanne Elliott is a Tribune-Review staff writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-871-2346 or via Twitter @41Suzanne.