Pennsylvania, where two top state senators recently unveiled a bipartisan bill, could be the next state to legalize recreational cannabis for adults.
Previous efforts to legalize cannabis in the state have failed to gain momentum in the Republican-controlled state legislature, but State Senators Shari Street (D-Philadelphia) and Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) have proposed a bipartisan plan.
The plan is to legalize adult-use cannabis for those aged 21 and over, decriminalize a yet-to-be-determined amount of marijuana, and generate up to $1 billion in tax revenue for the state, according to the senators.
The new bill will also expunge past non-violent cannabis convictions, set aside business licenses for minorities and veterans of the drug war, and authorize “limited home growing” for medical marijuana patients if passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Tom Wolf
Wolf has consistently claimed that legalizing marijuana is a top priority.
In light of the reality that legalization in other states has resulted in de facto apartheid, with white-controlled corporate cannabis empires, Pennsylvania’s plan will make the state’s industry “the most diverse and inclusive in the world,” allowing prohibition-affected people to seal their records and restore their lives,” according to Street.
“As the marijuana movement reaches Pennsylvania, legalization must be done the right way,” Laughlin added. “This bill ensures a legalized market in the Commonwealth is implemented safely and responsibly, with a thoughtful approach that provides opportunities to medical and recreational consumers, farmers, and small, medium and minority-owned businesses.”
Now inevitable, legalization in Pennsylvania appears to be on the horizon.
With the state quickly becoming the largest adult-use market on the East Coast, and because Pennsylvania will be the first key swing state to legalize adult-use cannabis, legalization would have ramifications in the future presidential elections.
Strong Support for Legalization
According to polling, at least 60% of likely voters in the state favor legalization.
Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman both support legalization and have been urging state legislators to move quickly and decisively on the issue since last year.
A cannabis-leaf flag flies on the balcony of Fetterman’s office at the state capitol, where he is running for US Senate.
Fetterman has become something of a folk hero for his provocative media interviews and workwear fashion choices.
Wolf said at a recent press conference that legalization is one of his top priorities for the state legislature in 2021.
Additionally, Pennsylvania already has a booming medical cannabis industry as well as a growing hemp industry. According to Marijuana Business Daily, medical marijuana sales are expected to hit $500 million in 2020 and could double to $1 billion by 2023.
Previous attempts to legalize cannabis have failed in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, which is dominated by Republicans in both chambers. Last fall, Republican leaders in both the state Senate and the House of Representatives declined to hold hearings on several bills.
Given marijuana’s success in a state where President Joe Biden narrowly defeated Donald Trump in the November presidential election, Republicans will have no choice but to vote for legalization or face bipartisan repercussions.