Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has proposed making recreational marijuana legal in order to bring in much needed revenue and to offset expenses and budget shortfalls that have been plaguing the Keystone State by Covid-19. Revenue generated by recreational marijuana sales would supposedly be used to help small businesses recover from the economic destruction caused by the pandemic. Wolf also floated the idea of restorative justice programs designed to repair the harm caused to those adversely affected by draconian and outdated drug laws.
Marijuana In Pennsylvania
Despite the growing popularity of marijuana in the United States, you could still be thrown in jail for using or selling recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania as the law stands today. However, marijuana has been legal for medicinal use in Pennsylvania since 2016 thanks to legislation that Wolf signed. The state formally activated its medical marijuana program in 2018. But resistance to legalization for recreational use has been strong and consistent. Namely, with the vast majority of the state consisting of rural conservative communities, republicans have long held a majority amongst state lawmakers, making it difficult to pass new marijuana legislation. Still, large urban areas like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have consistently been in support of recreational legalization. Further, as Wolf’s term in office is set to expire in 2022, time is running out for his administration to make marijuana fully legal.
Governor Wolf’s Proposal
Wolf briefly outlined his plan surrounding recreational marijuana legalization in a news conference earlier this week. His administration released an accompanying statement which in part states, “The governor is calling on the legislature to legalize recreational marijuana with the proceeds going to existing small business grant funding. Fifty percent of the funding would be earmarked for historically disadvantaged businesses. Along with the call to the General Assembly to pass legislation legalizing the sale and use of recreational marijuana, the governor proposes that a portion of the revenue be used to further restorative justice programs that give priority to repairing the harm done to crime victims and communities as a result of marijuana criminalization.”
Opposition By Republican Lawmakers
Republican lawmakers balked at Wolf’s proposal and alleged that he is looking for taxpayers to bail out his administration’s mismanagement of government funds. They further claim that his proposal is financially unfeasible and will do nothing but place the state in a deeper economic hole. Responding specifically to the call to legalize, republican lawmakers are skeptical that the revenue generated from marijuana legalization will be able to significantly cut into the $3.2 billion shortfall that the state is currently experiencing. The legislature is set to reconvene later this year in hopes of coming to a resolution on marijuana as well as covid-19 relief and recovery.