Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania expressed his desire to hold what he characterizes as ‘open’ conversations regarding the legalization of Pennsylvania marijuana. Brown also made it known that his Lieutenant Governor, John Fetterman, will soon begin a series of town hall meetings to gauge the interest of Pennsylvanians on the subject.
Fetterman has publicly articulated his support for recreational marijuana use in the past and says he will take part in listening sessions with citizens in all 67 counties in the state. The Lt. Governor will also field comments from citizens online.
Fetterman explained while speaking with a media source it is time to initiate conversations regarding marijuana legalization in Pennsylvania.
Governor Wolf, who is a week into his second term as Governor, gives his blessings to Fetterman on the matter after not being onboard with the idea of legalizing marijuana for Pennsylvanians in the past. The governor now feels the state should take the matter into serious consideration.
Wolf says the most responsible course of action is to gauge the opinions of state citizens on the matter. He points to the states of New York and New Jersey who are also considering marijuana legalization. Wolf also recalls a time when a similar discussion series regarding the opioid epidemic in the state proved fruitful.
Wolf later expanded on his thoughts while speaking at a Capitol news conference. At the conference, Wolf reiterated a need to get a firm grasp on the desires of citizens as they pertain to marijuana legalization. The governor says the word of the people will provide a guide for the actions of his administration.
The marijuana debate in Pennsylvania happens at a time when marijuana is becoming more acceptable to law-abiding citizens across the nation. There are billions of dollars currently being invested in the cannabis business and more and more main street business brands are willing to take the plunge into the market.
A law permitting medical marijuana in Pennsylvania was signed by Wolf in 2016. The governor has taken a hands-on approach to the law’s implementation. The first sale of medical marijuana in the state took place in February of 2017. The Wolf administration is also providing licenses to individuals and businesses interested in commercial hemp production.
The legalization of recreational marijuana use would require the Republican-controlled Legislature to give its approval to the measure.
The Legislature has not been friendly to the idea of recreational marijuana use in the past. Jake Corman, Senate Majority Leader for Pennsylvania, expressed criticism a month ago for the idea and said marijuana is a gateway drug that puts users at risk for abuse of harsher drugs.
Fetterman rebuffed this assertion by Corman and challenged the Senate majority leader to provide research supporting this theory.
Fetterman cites one reason for his support of marijuana legalization as the disproportionate criminal penalties assessed to minorities and other disadvantaged people for the use of marijuana. The Lt. Governor says arresting and jailing people for small amounts of marijuana is not an efficient use of law enforcement resources.
Fetterman also says legalizing recreational marijuana use would provide the state with a new stream of tax revenue.
Fetterman says the disagreement among lawmakers highlights the importance of the listening tours to hear the voice of the people. Fetterman expresses the hope that the feedback from the people will encourage lawmakers to legalize cannabis in Pennsylvania.
Franklin and Marshall College conducted a poll in 2017 which demonstrated 59 percent of the state residents who took part in the poll favored the legalization of marijuana.
The states of Colorado and Washington legalized the recreational use of marijuana in 2012. Since this time, ten states have also legalized the product for recreational use. Each of these 12 states, save for Vermont, legalized cannabis via voter referendum. There is no provision under Pennsylvania law that would allow the issue to be added to a voter ballot.