Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf started August 18 with this tweet:
"Marijuana legalization is long overdue in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvanians want it. I'm for it. And it's well past time to restore justice to those harmed by criminalization. I'm going to keep doing everything I can to make it happen."
Marijuana legalization is long overdue in Pennsylvania.— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) August 18, 2021
Pennsylvanians want it. I’m for it. And it’s well past time to restore justice to those harmed by criminalization.
I’m going to keep doing everything I can to make it happen.
Wolf, a Democrat, has lined up for legalization since he was elected in 2015. In 2019, Wolf stated:
"This has the potential to affect tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians, many of whom had their lives shattered by a conviction on an action that most Pennsylvanians do not believe is a crime. Together we can get more Pennsylvanians back to working across the aisle in this buildng."
Wolf's Lt. Governor John Fetterman is even more gung ho. He attended the Pennsylvania Cannabis Festival in April. Fetterman's running for a U.S. Senate seat in 2022.
Earlier this year Fetterman said: "New Jersey just voted to legalize weed and 40% of Pennsylvanians live like 20 minutes or less from the border. Why should New Jersey make all that tax revenue, but not Pennsylvania? In fact, PA could raise $5 billion in the next 20 years through a weed tax."
That's wishful thinking on Fetterman and Wolf's part. The Republican state legislature has shown little interest in discussing, much less voting on, adult-use legalization during Wolf's two terms in office. While surrounding states like New Jersey and New York joined the growing list of adult-legal states, Pennsylvania lags behind. A limited medical use bill passed in 2016.
Americans for Safe Access (ASA) gave Pennsylvania's medical cannabis program a C+ in its Medical Access State Report Card 2020. At first, smoking and flower were not allowed; that has changed, though flower shortages are noted by ASA. Patients and caregivers are also not permitted to grow at home in the Keystone State.
"The state still has considerable work to do before its medical program is functional and effective," ASA writes. "Pennsylvania should consider allowing home cultivation of medical cannabis for able-bodied patients, which can dramatically reduce costs and ensure ongoing availability of medicine. The state should also consider expanding the volume of licensed cultivators, manufacturers, testing laboratories and medical retail facilities to safeguard against supply shortages and improve patient access, as well as authorize delivery."
Cannabis isn't decriminalized in Pennsylvania either, though 11 cities across the state, including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, have enacted such laws.
Les Stark:" I would put the chances of adult-use legalization happening under Governor Wolf at less than 2% given the stubborn nature of state Republican lawmakers."
The latest legalization effort in Harrisburg is being spearheaded by State Senators Dan Loughlin (R - Erie Country) and Sharif Street (D - Philadelphia).
“We took great pains to make sure that small entrepreneurs can become involved in growing, processing, and distributing,” Loughlin explained. “A lot of it is aimed at helping communities of color, folks that have been disproportionately harmed by the War on Drugs, to be able to get into this business.”
The Laughlin-Street Bipartisan Adult Use Marijuana Legalization Bill "prioritizes safety, social and economic equity... while creating thousands of jobs and generating hundreds of millions of dollars in new tax revenue for the Commonwealth," according to Street's website.
The legislation would allow medical patients to grow five plants, expunge non-violent marijuana convictions, create licenses for social-equity applicants and set up a Business Development Fund, among other things.
Les Stark has little hope that adult-use legalization will happen on Wolf's watch. "If it was solely up to Wolf we would've passed a legalization bill easily by now," says the executive director of the Keystone Cannabis Coalition. "However, since the Republicans are almost completely united against legalization and won't even move on decrim, it'ss currently next to impossible for legalization to happen. The simple fact is, as long as Republicans run the show, we're at their mercy. Change cannot happen until they change their minds and they show no inclination to do so."