Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania recently said that legalizing marijuana is a significant item in the upcoming annual budget hearings with legislators, reported Marijuana Moment. The governor has been repetitively pursuing marijuana legalization and has reportedly pressured the state legislature to reform cannabis laws. The assembly is notably Republican-controlled.
Wolf has been vocal about this intention to tackle adult-use cannabis legalization through a series of Tweets revealing his plans. According to him, his 2021 plans cover legalizing adult-use cannabis.
Wolf advocates reform through his budget speech saying that there’s “a lot more in the budget, including a number of things that I know have bipartisan support.” A 2021 supplementary legislative plan by the governor noted that “Pennsylvania has built a successful medical marijuana program through bipartisan work.”
Wolf also noted that it is now “time to take the next step and legalize recreational marijuana in the commonwealth with an emphasis on helping businesses and restorative justice.”
Aside from legalizing the plant, the governor noted that amending the current laws will allow the government to support small businesses that have been negatively affected by disproportional laws. With the right reforms, these businesses and communities would be able to receive funding and assistance in order to help them recover. This also has the potential that can help stimulate the economy.
In other states, the cannabis industry has become a great source of additional revenues from taxes. A portion of the revenue is expected to “support restorative justice programs to help the individuals and communities that have been adversely harmed by the criminalization of marijuana.”
According to Marijuana Business Daily predicts that the Pennsylvania market would generate around $800 million in sales, only in the first full year. By its fourth year, the program could bring in an earning of $1.8 billion in annual sales. That is if the state legalizes adult-use cannabis.
The combination of these reforms can help reverse the decades of “injustices, economic harm and trauma” brought about by the prohibition of cannabis. This is directed to communities harmed by the criminalization, especially minorities.
This move toward legalization comes in light of other states coming to the same conclusion. Pennsylvania has been slowly going for full legalization after it legalized medical marijuana in 2016. Wolf believes that the state should not be left behind when it comes to this matter.
It is worth noting, though, that Wolf’s “formal spending request [does not] seem to contain any legislative language to actually accomplish the cannabis policy change,” remarked Marijuana Moment. No item regarding cannabis legalization can be spotted in its proposed spending legislation submitted to lawmakers.
What does appear in the proposal is an allotment of $14592,000 in appropriations for the current medical marijuana program.
It does, however, tackle the issue of reforms in the criminal justice system. The proposal reads, “Beyond these budget initiatives, the next year must include policy reforms that focus on making our criminal justice system fair, efficient, and restorative. Similarly, the legalization of adult-use cannabis will begin to eliminate the harm that has been caused in our society by the criminalization of marijuana.”
Meanwhile, Marijuana Moment reached out to Wolf’s office to clarify the lack of cannabis legalization items in his formal budget submission to the legislature. No reply was received regarding the matter.
The Democrat governor noted that bipartisan support among residents and lawmakers was an aspect in the legalization of medical cannabis back in 2016. Wolf has been optimistic about bipartisan support for this endeavor, with public polls reflecting the same opinion. However, the Republican-controlled legislature does not share this perception. Marijuana Business Daily noted that this is the biggest obstacle to this goal.
Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, who is looking to run for the US Senate, has been advocating for legalization but Republican legislators have been ignoring such pursuance. Despite this, Fetterman’s drew attention to this advocacy by hanging a cannabis-themed flag in his office.
However, he told Marijuana Moment that the flag was removed from his office due to the interference of GOP members who issued a temporary restriction of the kinds of flags that can be put up on government property. The lieutenant governor commented, “There’s one great way to get them down for good and we can end this.” He is referring to reforming the laws and legalizing the plant.
Aside from cannabis legislation, Wolf’s plan also includes increasing the minimum wage, building a stronger workforce, reforming the criminal justice system, investing in public infrastructure, and reducing business taxes and closing the Delaware loophole.”
Legalization push in other states
Besides Pennsylvania, other states have been pursuing the full legalization of cannabis. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been proposing this for three years, which is included in the 2021 budget plan for the state. Advocates have different opinions on the plan.
Minnesota governor Tim Walz has also encouraged the state’s legislature to consider this effect to improve its economy. Walz is also looking at legalization as a means to pursue racial justice, which has been a centerpiece of many fully legal cannabis programs in the United States.
Nevada governor Steve Sisolak and Rhode Island governor Gina Raimondo have also included this item in their budget proposals, with Sisolak going for provisions to funnel cannabis tax revenues to schools. On the other hand, Raimondo drafted a state-run model last year, but it failed to get past lawmakers.
Wisconsin governor Tony Evers had also considered adding this item to 2021 budget proposal as a way to boost revenues amid the pandemic. In the past, Evers had tried to push for decriminalization and medical marijuana in 2019, but his attempts were unfortunately blocked by Republican officials.
The Bottom Line
Cannabis legalization has become a primary concern for many state leaders, especially with its potential for boosting revenues from taxes and correcting racial injustices in the past. With more and more governors working toward this end, the conversation regarding legalization remains to be relevant.