Wolf administration renews calls for recreational marijuana legislation, House Republicans respond

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has once again called on the state legislature to take up the legalization of recreation cannabis as a way to help the state's recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

Along with helping fund recovery, the governor says legalization will also create opportunities for restorative justice programs in Pennsylvania.

“Now more than ever, we see a desperate need for the economic boost cannabis legalization can provide. So today I am proposing we legalize adult-use cannabis here in Pennsylvania with a portion of the revenue going toward existing small business grants,” Gov. Wolf said. “Half of these grants would be earmarked for historically disadvantaged businesses, many of which have had difficulties attaining other assistance because of systemic issues.

Wolf added that the other portion of the revenue would go tow restorative justice programs that "give priority to repairing the harm done to crime victims and communities as a result of cannabis criminalization.”

Lt. Governor John Fetterman joined Wolf in the call for legalization during a press conference Thursday afternoon.

"It has been nearly a year since Governor Wolf and I urged the legislature to act on immediate decriminalization and start the discussion about legalization,” Lt. Governor Fetterman said. “Now more than ever, we must stop prosecuting people for doing something that most Pennsylvanians don't even think should be illegal."

11 states and the District of Columbia have already legalized cannabis.

“Some states that have legalized adult-use cannabis have received millions in additional revenue,” Gov. Wolf said. “In Washington state, adult-use cannabis brought in $319 million in tax revenue in 2018. In Colorado, that figure topped $266 million, and provided the city of Aurora with $900,000 to open a space for people experiencing homelessness. And these figures don’t count the secondary economic benefits of new businesses opening.”



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Wolf's administration first called on the legislature to consider recreational, adult-use cannabis back in September of 2019. At the time, Fetterman had completed a statewide listening tour and reported back to the governor summarizing the public opinion on the issue.

Fetterman and Wolf repeatedly claimed during their press conference that the 'majority' of Pennsylvanians favor legalization and outlined three actions: a referendum on legalization, decriminalization and expungement of small possession convictions.

Following the press conference, Pennsylvania House Republican Caucus Spokesperson Jason Gottesman released a statement referring to Wolf's call for legalization as "another inconsistency and contradiction from this governor who just recently renewed a disaster declaration for a drug overdose crisis that continues to devastate and destroy Pennsylvania’s families."

“In addition, Pennsylvanians are still struggling to survive and provide for their families amid the governor’s unilateral and overbroad economic shutdown orders. Instead of legalizing drugs as a way to tax and spend on new government programs, the governor should work with the General Assembly to help get Pennsylvanians safely back to work, get our children get the best educational opportunities, and provide the return to normalcy Pennsylvanians long for,” the statement continued.


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