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PA Is Expediting Pardons For Non-Violent Marijuana Crimes

Ted S. Warren
Thousands of people convicted of low-level, marijuana-related crimes in Pennsylvania could be eligible for pardon.


On today's program: Pennsylvania’s Lieutenant Governor is encouraging people with nonviolent marijuana-related convictions to apply for pardons; a new executive order aims to limit the number of legal immigrants coming to the U.S.; and polls suggest most Americans support police reform, but how might that impact their choices at the ballot box in November? 

Pardons for nonviolent marijuana crimes are part of criminal justice reform
(00:00 — 5:32)

In September,Lt. Gov. John Fetterman announced that the state Board of Pardons would be streamlining the process for applicants to be pardoned for nonviolent marijuana-related offenses. Now, thousands of people convicted in Pennsylvania of low-level, marijuana-related crimes could be eligible for expedited pardons, and Fetterman isencouraging them to apply.

“My goal, my dream, would be full legalization. But in the interim, you have the ability to apply right now for free for a pardon and we have the ability to streamline and expedite that and handle it in bulk,” he tells The Confluence.

Fetterman chairs the Board of Pardons, which has approved the first 26 applications to go to Gov. Tom Wolf for his signature. A spokesperson for Wolf says he will review each case individually and factor in "the likelihood of the person to re-offend" as well as "the consequences of carrying a record when someone has turned their life around."

Fetterman says that while he hopes to see decriminalization, expungement of records, and legalization of recreational marijuana in the future, the pardons are part of the first steps towards meaningful reform. “It’s one of the most simple steps that we can take from a criminal justice reform that would free African Americans up from the bias in law enforcement.”

Find more information, including the application packet,here

New rules on visas could impact local universities, businesses looking to fill jobs
(5:34 — 13:06)

In April, President Trump issued anexecutive order limiting legal immigration to the United States. This week, the Trump administration extended that order until the end of this year and introducednew restrictions on visas that allow immigrants to work temporarily in the U.S.


The visas affected by these restrictions include H-1Bs for specialty occupations, H-4s for spouses, H-2Bs for temporary non-agricultural workers, L-1s for transfers within a company, and J-1s for exchange visitors. The order does not apply to lawful permanent residents, spouses or children of an American citizen, individuals working in the food supply chain and individuals "whose entry would be in the national interest."

Sheila Velez Martinez, a professor of immigration and refugee law at the University of Pittsburgh and director of their Immigration Law Clinic, says the limits could have a negative impact on local universities and the regional economy "interrupting the flow of talent" from outside the country.

According to Velez Martinez, these new regulations could hurt the already fragile economy. “Because if we have an economy that is coming back on track, the same amount of workers are going to be needed and there are not enough US workers to fill those positions that are by their nature temporary,” she says.

Velez Martinez expects that legal challenges will be filed against the executive orders in the coming months. 

Could protests against police brutality sway voters’ ballot box decisions?
(13:08 — 17:49)

As protests against police brutality sweep across the country, polling suggests most Americans support law enforcement reform.


For theSplit Ticket series, 90.5 WESA’sLucy Perkins has been asking four voters about the issues that could sway their decision at the ballot box. She reports that the protests deepened at least one voter’s commitment to be heard in November.


The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Doug Shugarts is a 23-year veteran of broadcast news. Doug began his career at WBUR in Boston, where he worked on the nationally-syndicated programs “The Connection” and “Here and Now.” He won awards for best use of sound, coverage of the 2003 war in Iraq, and helped launch the station’s local news program, “Radio Boston.” In 2014 Doug moved across town to GBH and helped reboot morning news programming and launch other broadcast and web projects. Doug studied Composition at Berklee College of Music and Computer Science and Mathematics at the University of California. A resident of Pittsburgh’s Southside, Doug enjoys feasting on arepas and yucca fries at Cilantro and Ajo and meeting his canine neighbors at Big Dog Coffee.
Julia Zenkevich reports on Allegheny County government for 90.5 WESA. She first joined the station as a production assistant on The Confluence, and more recently served as a fill-in producer for The Confluence and Morning Edition. She’s a life-long Pittsburgher, and attended the University of Pittsburgh. She can be reached at
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