Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf called for the legalization of recreational marijuana on Tuesday, telling state lawmakers that taxes levied on cannabis sales could be used to fund COVID-19 pandemic relief efforts. As the Democratic governor announced his legislative agenda, Wolf asked the Republican-led legislature to focus on pandemic recovery, government reform, and support for businesses, workers, and families.
“House and Senate Democrats have been fighting for these things for years, and certainly since the beginning of the pandemic,” Wolf said. “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.”
“The legislature must come back and take immediate steps to provide funding to frontline workers and businesses, put in place protections for families and our workforce, and make these commonsense reforms that can provide confidence in our government,” he added. “Pennsylvanians need relief, they need reform, and they need it now.”
Wolf specifically called for the legalization of cannabis for adults 21 and older, with the tax revenues raised going to restorative justice programs and funding for existing small business grant programs. Wolf estimated cannabis taxes could raise $90 million for pandemic relief.
“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,” Wolf said in a press release.
Restorative Justice For Marijuana Convictions
Wolf also called on lawmakers to pass legislation that would address those with past marijuana convictions. The governor said that he hoped the experience of other jurisdictions, where cannabis taxes have generated more than a billion dollars in revenue, would help sway some Republican lawmakers.
“I think we’ve had a little more time to see what’s happened in places like Colorado with revenues, for example, that this might be one way to plug a hole,” Wolf said.
“My hope is that with the pandemic and the hit we’ve taken to revenues, there might be a little more interest in it now,” he added.
Wolf’s legislative priorities also include support for frontline workers during the pandemic, calling on lawmakers to provide “$225 million to increase hazard pay to Pennsylvania workers, using the overall structure of the current PA Hazard Pay Grant Program administered through the Department of Community and Economic Development. This funding would cover a $3.00/hour increase for 208,000 frontline workers across the commonwealth,” according to the release.
The governor is also calling for a $10 million “PPE Reimbursement Program for employers to cover the cost of masks, face shields, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizers and soaps, and other industry-specific PPE.”
Wolf urged lawmakers to use the 11 legislative days remaining in the current session, which wraps up before the November election, to focus on his legislative agenda.“If we want our economy to become strong again, the legislature needs to take action now,” he said.