Two Pennsylvania state senators announced on Wednesday the introduction of a bipartisan measure to legalize cannabis for use by adults. The legislation from Democratic Sen. Sharif Street of Philadelphia and Sen. Dan Laughlin, a Republican from Erie, “prioritizes safety, community reinvestment, social and economic equity, agriculture, and creates vital tax revenue streams for the Commonwealth,” according to a statement from Street’s office.
“While my colleague Senator Street and I come from different political parties, we see a bipartisan way forward on marijuana legalization that is premised on safety and social equity,” said Laughlin.
“As the marijuana movement reaches Pennsylvania, legalization must be done the right way,” he 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.”
If the bill is passed by the Pennsylvania legislature and signed into law by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, cannabis possession would be decriminalized for adults, and convictions for some nonviolent marijuana convictions would be expunged. The measure would also create a regulated and taxed adult-use marijuana economy. The bill also creates social and economic equity licenses for marijuana businesses and mandates that a majority of new licenses be granted to social and economic equity applicants.
“I look forward to working with my colleagues in the legislature and with the administration to build support for this critical legislation that aims to make Pennsylvania’s cannabis market the most diverse and inclusive in the country while enabling those who have been harmed by prohibition to seal their records and rebuild their lives,” said Street.
The measure also protects the state’s existing medical marijuana industry by allowing licensees to help meet the demand for recreational cannabis on an expedited timetable. Registered medical marijuana patients would be permitted to grow up to five cannabis plants at home under another provision of the legislation.
Pennsylvania Governor Supports Cannabis Policy Reform
Earlier this year, Wolf called on state lawmakers to prioritize the legalization of adult-use cannabis during the new legislative session, noting that neighboring states have already acted on the issue.
“In 2017, Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana through bipartisan legislation,” Wolf’s office wrote in an announcement of his 2021 agenda. “Now as our neighbors move toward legalizing recreational marijuana, Pennsylvania cannot afford to be left behind. Legalizing adult-use cannabis has strong bipartisan support among Pennsylvanians.”
The governor added that social and economic change could be advanced with the tax revenue raised by cannabis reform.
“The revenue generated from legalization will be used to support historically disadvantaged small businesses through grant funding and provide them the assistance they need to build back from the economic crisis and strengthen our economy,” the announcement continued.
“Additionally, a portion of the revenue will support restorative justice programs to help the individuals and communities that have been adversely harmed by the criminalization of marijuana.”
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, another Democrat, has also been an ardent advocate for marijuana legalization in Pennsylvania, even flying a pot leaf flag from his Capitol office balcony in violation of state law. In an interview with a local television station last year, he noted that public opinion about cannabis has evolved over time.
“Marijuana prohibition is a truly minority viewpoint in Pennsylvania,” Fetterman said. “A significant majority of Pennsylvania are for legalization and I would just ask anyone who’s not – it’s like, well, you sure don’t want to pay more in taxes.”