How cannabis pardon bins in Pennsylvania are making a difference

Published Jan 12, 2021 10:00 a.m. ET
iStock / Moostocker

That familiar shaped newspaper box that you remember as always being on the corner of the street has all of a sudden returned in Montgomery County, PA. Only these boxes are now called Cannabis Pardon Bins, and instead of newspapers, they dispense a free pardon application for a marijuana conviction.

Hundreds of Montco residents have filed a pardon application for cannabis charges since the pardon bins project started in April 2020. Inside the Cannabis Pardon Bins are a pardon application, information about NORML's programming, and information provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Health instructing readers on how to go about obtaining a medical cannabis card.

What is a pardon?

A full legal forgiveness for a crime and removing any remaining prison sentence, unpaid fines, and probation conditions is the simplest definition of a pardon. Receiving a pardon's government decision removes some other collateral consequences of having a conviction like holding professional licenses, running for office, or allowing a felon to vote.

Who is responsible?

The Pennsylvania county chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, (NORML) Montco, in partnership with TerraVida, Victims of the War on Drugs (VOWD), the non-profit limb of the medical cannabis dispensary chain, is responsible for this venture. Operated by women, TerraVida, located in Pennsylvania, are medical cannabis dispensaries. The two local nonprofit organizations aim to provide the needed help to residents who have prior marijuana charges so that they can get a fresh start.

Everyone is a winner


Over eight hundred people have used Cannabis Pardon Bins, according to the activists who have distributed the applications to the two boxes that have been installed in Montco, Pennsylvania. One is located in front of the Lansdale Public Library, and the other is located right in front of the county courthouse in Norristown.

Gov. John Fetterman, a supporter of marijuana reform laws in PA, has stated that the distribution scheme is a fantastic idea. The director of Montco NORML said that the advocates fill the Cannabis Pardon Bins every week with the pardon application, and most weeks, the bins have been emptied by the time they return. The newspaper boxes used for the Cannabis Pardon Bin are readily available, and more importantly, they are free. The vice president of TerraVida, Cathie Cashman, looks upon the venture as a win-win for all involved.

According to the organizers of the program, the pardon bins in Pennsylvania were established so that everyone has the same accessibility to marijuana pardon applications. The Cannabis Pardon Bins will help to provide those who have prior marijuana-related charges with the needed information and resources to aid them in turning over convictions so that they can get their lives back on the right track.

Final words

The activist group aims to have similar Cannabis Pardon Bins like the ones that are placed in Norristown distributed throughout every courthouse in the state. The pardon applications' availability is just another step forward in the federal legalization of cannabis that Pennsylvania's activists are striving towards.

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