Pennsylvania Governor Proposes Taxes on Pot—But No Legalization Bill

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro outlined a tax plan in his budget proposal.
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Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro on Tuesday unveiled his proposed budget for the state, which included a plan to levy a tax on marijuana sales.

The sale of cannabis is, notably, still illegal in Pennsylvania. 

But Shapiro’s proposal is a nod toward a weed-friendly feature in the Keystone State.

The first-term governor’s budget “proposes an adult use cannabis tax that would be imposed on the wholesale price of products sold through the regulated framework of the production and sales system, once legalized.” 

“The proposed rate is 20 percent of the wholesale price of cannabis products sold through the regulated framework,” the budget reads.

The proposal includes an estimate that “sales would commence January 1, 2025, with initial revenue collections realized in 2024-25.”

But as the Philadelphia Inquirer noted, Shapiro’s budget “does not include any proposed policy changes in the budget.”

According to the Inquirer, Shapiro’s “proposal includes estimates that assume adult-use sales would begin in January 2025 and bring in about $16 million in tax revenue that year … [and] tax revenue [would] increase to $64.1 million in 2026, $132.6 million in 2027, and $188.8 million in 2028.”

Shaprio, who was elected as governor last year, and other Pennsylvania Democrats have made it known that they want to legalize marijuana in the state.

“Legalize marijuana. Regulate it. Tax it,” Shapiro said on Twitter in 2021.

He also emphasized the importance of any new cannabis law to include social equity provisions to right previous wrongs of the Drug War.

“But let me be clear: legalization must include expungement for those in jail or who have served time for possessing small amounts of marijuana,” Shapiro continued in the tweet. “Our Black & brown communities have been disproportionately impacted by this for far too long.” 

A pair of Pennsylvania lawmakers filed a memo earlier this year stating their desire to pass a cannabis legalization bill this year.

“It’s time to regulate and tax this major crop product in service of the health and well-being of Pennsylvanians,” state House Reps. Dan Frankel and Donna Bullock, both Democrats, said in the memo, which was released in January. “Soon we will be introducing legislation to do just that.”

Frankel and Bullock highlighted the ubiquity of cannabis use in Pennsylvania––both through the state’s established medical marijuana program, and the illicit market.

“Pennsylvanians are using cannabis,” they wrote in the memo. “Some of that cannabis is sold legally to patients through the medical cannabis program. Those products are regulated for safety and producers pay for the costs of managing the program.”

Cannabis is also sold illegally in Pennsylvania,” the lawmakers continued. “We have no idea what’s in it, how it was produced or where it comes from. We do know that it gets into the hands of young people, and we get no tax benefit to support our communities; meanwhile, the enforcement of our cannabis laws has not affected all communities equally – far from it. Although white people and people of color use cannabis about equally, black Pennsylvanians are about 3.5 times as likely to be arrested for cannabis use as their white counterparts, according to Pennsylvania State Police data compiled by NORML.”

They said that their proposal “will create a legal and regulatory framework structured to control and regulate the cultivation, processing, transportation, distribution, delivery and sale at retail of cannabis and cannabis products with the following central goals in mind: Consumer Safety; Social Justice; Economic Equity; Prevention of Substance Use Disorder; Revenue.” 

But the prospects for legalization in Pennsylvania remain unclear. 

“Since late last year, several lawmakers have filed memos about legalization proposals that give an idea of what an adult-use market could look like — though it’s unclear if or when a legalization bill will be passed,” the Inquirer reported.

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