The state of Pennsylvania is under pressure to legalize marijuana as selling can help mend the economy and provide relief for families and businesses.
On Tuesday, Aug. 25, Governor Tom Wolf announced a renewed move to legalize cannabis in the state as part of the fall agenda. The adult-use can aid with the tax revenue of the state and benefit the people, especially the recovery for businesses.
Wolf says about 50 percent of the funding from cannabis tax revenue would be reserved for disadvantaged businesses. This way, recovery is underway and businesses can start over from months of shutdowns and sales slowdown due to the global pandemic.
In addition to the money aid, the revenue generated from marijuana can also go to the ‘restorative justice’ focused on fixing the harm done by crime victims. The Pennsylvania Governor is calling for a reconsideration of legalizing recreational marijuana that would start from cultivating, distributing, and selling to adults above 21 years of age.
“I think we have a state store system that would be an ideal way to distribute [cannabis]. It’s also a way that the state could actually get some tax revenue from something that people are evidently already doing,” added Wolf.
Since 2016, medical marijuana is considered legal. It was also Wolf who signed the program, which was formally activated in 2018. The governor acknowledged the Democrats’ initiative to protect the communities, businesses, and families but failed miserably in prioritizing public health crisis.
Wolf calls for the legislative to take immediate steps to fund the frontline workers and businesses, then place protection for families. By doing so, people can have confidence in the government, and Pennsylvanians can receive relief at the time of need.
At the time of the pandemic, relief is crucial as unemployment increases and people have no other means to get resources. By allowing recreational marijuana sales, funding can be available and distributed to those in need. This funding can help businesses come back to their feet, create jobs, and help the communities.
The governor also proposed other initiatives including the push for frontline workers’ hazard pay, government reform measures to support small businesses, and access to childcare. Granting these initiatives help the residents and receive more help than what the government can provide at this time.
Federal Coronavirus Relief
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Paycheck Protection Program aren’t enough to sustain the long months of lockdown and slowdown of business. What the state needs are to accelerate the sales for cannabis to gain more revenue.
All the efforts proposed by Gov. Wolf can be possible with the remaining $1.3 billion from federal coronavirus stimulus relief and the projected millions of revenue from cannabis revenue.
The state of Pennsylvania successfully regulated the medical marijuana industry by creating an infrastructure to oversee taxes and sales. Since the obvious success, Wolf and Gov. John Fetterman showed their support for the full legalization in the state.
At the moment, marijuana is still classified as an illegal drug by the federal government under Schedule I. Eleven states have legalized the recreational use for adults, which consist of Alaska, California, Colorado, Columbia, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.
About 22 states in total have legalized only medical marijuana, which includes Pennsylvania. However, the state is still waiting for the legislation to act on Senate Bill 350 or the legalization bill. This isn’t new as the cannabis industry experienced a number of delays in the recreational marijuana legalization for a year and still continues.
Not everyone is on board with Gov. Wolf’s plan to push for the full legalization in Pennsylvania. House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff questioned the governor’s motives and said, “[Wolf] require the taxpayers to bail him out of his unilateral mandates that have devastated their lives and livelihoods.”
A House session will happen in September focusing on the normalcy of the residents in the state. Chief of Police Association in Pennsylvania Scott Bohn expressed concerns over the announcement. The legalization could bring significant challenges for law enforcement that would result in consequences for public safety.
Additionally, concerns over the collection of taxes are expressed, and how these would be regulated. There’s also no projection of revenue disclosed, with the governor merely stating plans without backing with figures and statistics. Considered as guesses, the created jobs go beyond the dispensaries, which would take a while before fully operating.
The state never saw any money from legal weed sales, with lawmakers not passing any bill that would allow recreational use of cannabis. Wolf’s former proposals for the first-year figure are at around $60 million to $80 million, both for medical and recreational use.
As for medical use, the state is expected to double its sales in 2020, with a projected $500 million net sales. This figure is expected to reach $1 billion in the next three to four years.
For experts like cannabis attorney Judith Cassel, the legalization will run smoothly as medical marijuana is a success. “There’s been a lot of activity lately and a lot of interest in acquisitions,” said Cassel.
There’s a strong market indication that legalizing marijuana could counter the losses from the pandemic. The Pennsylvania Department of Health claims a strong state regulatory body must be placed to monitor the sales and revenues. Meanwhile, around 1,400 doctors have approved the legalization, showcasing a strong physician recommendation.
Senate Bill 350 was formally introduced in February but isn’t given much of a chance to pass by the lawmakers. The Republicans are persuaded by a plan that would backfire to the residents in case the market becomes unregulated.
Wolf is calling for a smooth transition from illegal to legal adult-use and putting up a regulatory body to manage the market. Additionally, business licensing is also given to only those who qualify to sell high-quality marijuana for the public’s safety. A brand-new regulatory framework should also be placed to materialize the system in the state.
Gov. Wolf has been involved in the Northeast governors group that would develop a regional framework for the adult use of marijuana.