Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf called on state lawmakers to legalize and regulate marijuana for adults in a list of goals for the new year released on Thursday. In the statement of his priorities for the 2021 legislative session, Wolf said that it is time to continue the state’s reform of cannabis policy.
“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.”
Wolf’s call for the legalization of recreational marijuana noted that tax revenues raised by regulated cannabis commerce could be used to help advance social and economic change.
“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.”
Recovering From COVID-19’s Economic Fallout
Wolf’s agenda also included several additional priorities for Pennsylvania for 2021, including calls for lawmakers to raise the state’s minimum wage, increase taxes on natural gas, and invest in school buildings and other infrastructure. The changes are part of a plan to help Pennsylvania recover from the continuing economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed Pennsylvania and exacerbated existing barriers for too many Pennsylvanians. It continues to have negative consequences for businesses, workers, and families throughout the commonwealth,” the Democratic governor said in a statement accompanying his budget priorities. “To get Pennsylvania back on track from the disruptions the pandemic is causing, we need to make major, targeted investments to strengthen our economy, support workers and small business owners, rebuild our infrastructure, and help all Pennsylvanians build a path to financial security.”
Agenda Renews Calls For Cannabis Reform
Wolf has been in favor of the legalization of cannabis for adults since 2019. He reiterated his desire for reform last year, noting that legalization bills have not been supported by Pennsylvania’s GOP-controlled legislature.
“House and Senate Democrats have been fighting for these things for years, and certainly since the beginning of the pandemic,” Wolf said in August. “They’ve been stopped at every turn by the Republicans who’ve been focused on ignoring the public health crisis and actually trashing me. That has to stop. We’ve got to get back to doing things that actually matter to people.”
Fellow Democrat Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has also been a vocal and visible advocate for marijuana legalization in Pennsylvania, going so far as 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 shifted over the years.
“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.”
Fetterman added that he believes legalizing cannabis in Pennsylvania could bring up to half a billion dollars into the state’s coffers each year, helping the state address its budget deficit.
“There’s already a thriving marijuana market in Pennsylvania,” he insisted. “Why not make it legal, why not make it safe and why not make it taxable to help Pennsylvania get back on its feet?”