Pennsylvania Governor Proposes Marijuana Legalization In Budget So State Can “Catch Up” With “Friggin’ Ohio”

Pennsylvania Governor Proposes Marijuana Legalization In Budget So State Can “Catch Up” With “Friggin’ Ohio”

Pennsylvania’s governor says he’s “sick and tired of losing to friggin’ Ohio” on issues such as marijuana legalization, and he’s calling on the legislature to deliver him a cannabis bill so the commonwealth can “catch up” with neighboring states by launching legal adult-use sales that would bring in an estimated $14.8 million in tax revenue in the first year of implementation.

He also proposed including expungements provisions to “right some of the wrongs” of prohibition.

In a budget address on Tuesday, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) talked about how voters in neighboring Ohio approved a legalization initiative at the ballot last November as an example of “where we’re falling behind other states.” A staffer in his office made similar remarks shortly after the Ohio vote.

“Now Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Delaware  and Maryland—practically all of our neighbors—have legalized marijuana,” the governor said in his budget speech. “We’re losing out on an industry that, once fully implemented, would bring in more than 250 million dollars in annual revenue. And our failure to legalize and regulate this only fuels the black market and drains much needed resources for law enforcement.”

“It’s time to catch up. I ask you to come together and send to my desk a bill that legalizes marijuana,” he said. “But that bill should ensure the industry is regulated and taxed responsibly so that we create jobs and build wealth here in Pennsylvania, especially in the communities that have been disproportionately harmed by criminalization.”

Shapiro added that he wants the cannabis legislation to provide a pathway for expungements of prior non-violent marijuana convictions.

“Let’s stop hamstringing ourselves and start competing again in Pennsylvania,” he said.

The budget book that the governor’s office released on Tuesday follows similar themes, stating that the administration “recognizes that the time has come for Pennsylvania to legalize adult use cannabis.”

“Every one of Pennsylvania’s neighbors except West Virginia has legalized adult use cannabis, including Ohio. Pennsylvania is currently at a competitive disadvantage, losing out on critical tax revenue and new businesses to our neighbors. Furthermore, Pennsylvania’s overburdened police and courts have more important things to do than arrest and adjudicate people for the use of cannabis. The prohibition of cannabis has also created an underground economy that fuels violence perpetrated by drug traffickers and gangs seeking to control the illicit and dangerous forms of synthetic marijuana in our communities.”

The budget proposes the legalization of adult-use marijuana effective July 1 of this year, with licensed shops launching sales starting January 1, 2025. Part of the tax revenue from those sales should “right some of the wrongs of those individuals impacted by archaic laws,” it says.

“To that end, the budget proposes to invest $5 million in restorative justice initiatives from adult use cannabis proceeds, in addition to the immediate expungement of the records of those incarcerated for only a possession related offense attributed to cannabis,” the summary says. “The adult use cannabis industry in Pennsylvania, as a new potential cash crop for our farmers, will be regulated by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.”

The budget estimates that Pennsylvania would see $14.8 million in cannabis tax revenue in the first year of implementation from 2024-2025. In addition to $5 million for restorative justice initiatives, the plan calls for $5 million to cover operational costs, $2 million for state police for enforcement purposes, $500,000 for administrative costs and the remaining to the state general fund.

“Once up and running, this industry will yield $250 million in additional revenue for the Commonwealth,” the governor’s office said.

Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,000 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.—

The governor is unveiling his budget request one day after Pennsylvania lawmakers convened another hearing on marijuana legalization issues—focusing on the industry perspective, with multiple stakeholders from cannabis growing, dispensing and testing businesses, as well as clinical registrants, testifying.

“From the outset, my personal goals for adult-use has been to put health and safety of our constituents first and to allow for equitable and meaningful opportunities, particularly for those harmed by the war on drugs,” Rep. Dan Frankel (D), chair of the full Health Committee who previously sponsored cannabis legalization legislation, said at the beginning of Monday’s hearing.

At the subcommittee’s last cannabis meeting in December, members heard testimony and asked questions about various elements of marijuana oversight, including promoting social equity and business opportunities, laboratory testing and public versus private operation of a state-legal cannabis industry.

During the panel’s first meeting late last year, Frankel said that state-run stores are “certainly an option” he’s considering for Pennsylvania, similar to what New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) recommended for that state last year, though a state commission later shied away from that plan.

U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) also recently complained that Pennsylvania is being “lapped” on marijuana policy as other states in the region enact legalization.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania lawmakers recently advanced a pair of bills meant to prevent police from charging medical cannabis patients with impaired driving without proof of intoxication.

In December, the governor signed a bill to allow all licensed medical marijuana grower-processors in the state to serve as retailers and sell their cannabis products directly to patients. Independent dispensaries could also start cultivating their own marijuana.

A poll released last week found that about two-thirds of Pennsylvania voters in the state support enacting marijuana legalization.

New York Governor Eyes Marijuana Regulator Leadership Change Amid Growing Frustration Over Licensing Delays

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.

  Read More Feedzy 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *