If you've been charged with marijuana possession, you might be feeling anxious about whether or not this conviction can appear in a background check. In past decades the simple answer to the question is generally yes. However, since 2010, much of the state of Pennsylvania has eased up on the non violent marijuana infractions and even decriminalized possession of this product to as much as a fine (for small amounts up to 30 grams).
When applying for jobs, many entities and organizations require a background check. During these background checks, criminal activity from an applicant's past can show on the record. A criminal event from your past can hurt your chances of getting hired over a counterpart without a drug conviction, and potentially limit the available jobs offered to a convicted drug offender.
In 2016 Pennsylvania legalized marijuana for medicinal purposes. Although it is illegal to possess or consume for recreational purposes (as of 2020) in the state, several larger cities have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use.
Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition - ARD Program
For first time offenders in the state of Pennsylvania, non-violent possessors of marijuana are applicable for the accelerated rehabilitative disposition, or more commonly known as ARD. The ARD program is a program that does not involve a conviction or a guilty plea, rather it is more "probation without verdict". The circumstances of ARD will vary dependent on the unique facts of each case, but upon completion of the program, the first time offender is eligible to request the record be expunged and removed from government records. The expungement process is different than the ARD program however, and most counties do not automatically expunge the record upon completion of the ARD.
ARD allows first time offenders a different path through the Pennsylvania Judicial System. For some first time offenses, the State of Pennsylvania offers an alternate route
Pennsylvania Marijuana Expedited Pardons
The State of Pennsylvania has been expediting pardons for nonviolent marijuana requests involving small amounts of marijuana for personal consumption. You can request a pardon review for the following marijuana offenses:
- Possession of small amounts of marijuana with intent to distribute
- The distribution of a small amount of marijuana but not for sale
- Drug paraphernalia offensives
- Criminal Conspiracies
- Marijuana related DUIs for medical patients
- Felony convictions with the intent to deliver a controlled substance
There are however some exceptions to the list above (one such would be completion of the ARD program). Refer to the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons for additional information pertaining to marijuana pardons in Pennsylvania.
A pardon comes from the Governor of Pennsylvania and, if the pardon is successful, it will expunge the offense from your record. Each case is unique and, although expedited, can still take two and a half years from the initial request to process completion.
If you have been charged with marijuana related crime, it is best to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area. Although the stigma may be disappearing around marijuana with younger generations, it is still illegal in several states and remains a schedule one drug under United States federal law.