Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf announced today that regulating the adult-use cannabis market and “restoring justice” to those with past marijuana convictions are among his fall legislative priorities.
Wolf said: “I’m calling on the legislature to to legalize recreational marijuana, with the revenue going to: small business grant funding [and] restorative justice programs. At the same time, we must pursue policies that restore justice for individuals convicted of marijuana-related offenses.”
Under state law, the possession of small quantities of cannabis is classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by jail time and a criminal record. In 2019, an estimated 20,000 Pennsylvanians were arrested on minor marijuana possession charges — among the highest total of any state.
NORML’s senior staff praised Gov. Wolf’s call to enact marijuana policy reforms.
“It makes no sense from a public health perspective, a fiscal perspective, or a moral perspective to perpetuate the prosecution and stigmatization of tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians annually simply for minor marijuana possession offenses,” NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano said. “The Governor is to be commended for recognizing that the establishment of a pragmatic regulatory framework that allows for the legal, licensed commercial production and retail sale of marijuana to adults is preferable to the failed policy of criminalization, and for also acknowledging the need to right the past wrongs of prohibition — which far too often fall disproportionately upon young people. poor people, and people of color.”
NORML Executive Director Erik Altieri added: “By calling for adult-use marijuana legalization in the Keystone State, Governor Wolf is representing a view that is shared by the majority of Pennsylvania voters. Regulating the adult-use market will mitigate racially disparate arrests while advancing civil liberties and generating much needed revenue for important social programs. The legislature should heed the governor’s call and put Pennsylvania toward a more humane and sensible marijuana policy.”
Jeff Riedy, Executive Director of Leigh Valley NORML, said: “The inclusion of cannabis legalization in Governor Wolf’s Fall agenda today doubles down on the Administration’s commitment to encourage and support statewide legalization in Pennsylvania. … NORML Chapters across Pennsylvania endorsed the Wolf/Fetterman ticket back in 2018, and our support has paid some dividends in advancing the conversation in Harrisburg, even while faced with a Republican-controlled legislature. With two robust legalization bills at the ready (HB2050, SB350), lawmakers could act tomorrow [if they wished to].”
Pittsburgh NORML Executive Director Patrick Nightingale said, “We are very encouraged that Governor Wolf is calling for full adult use legalization. What Lt. Governor Fetterman discovered in 2019 and what remains equally true today is that a significant majority of Pennsylvanians support cannabis reform. Many voiced support for restorative justice and the economic opportunities presented by one of the nation’s fastest growing industries. Until a meaningful dialogue can take place with Pennsylvania’s Republican leadership, Gov. Wolf and Lt. Governor Fetterman’s efforts cannot come to fruition and the multiple cannabis reform bills currently pending in the Legislature will die at the end of December.”
According to a 2019 statewide poll commissioned by Franklin & Marshall University, 58 percent of registered Pennsylvania voters say that the use of marijuana by adults should be legalized, and most prefer to have cannabis products sold by private retailers.