New Bill Would Legalize Marijuana in Pennsylvania

Many in Pennsylvania have hopes for passage of the newly-introduced comprehensive bill, which faces an uphill battle.

If it were up to a pair of Pennsylvania lawmakers, the Keystone State would become the 12th in the country to fully legalize marijuana.

Reported first by The Philadelphia Inquirer, Pennsylvania Senators Daylin Leach (D) and Sharif Street (D) this week introduced a comprehensive cannabis legalization bill that would allow those 21 years and older to purchase cannabis for recreational purposes.

Like Illinois’ recently-passed marijuana legislation, Pennsylvania’s new marijuana bill contains strong social justice provisions to expunge sentences for individuals previously convicted of possession, and a mechanism to provide small businesses interest-free loans. Other provisions would ensure licensing to micro-businesses that could grow up to 150 plants for a yearly $250 fee.

While alcohol is sold through state-owned stores in PA, in Leach and Street’s bill legal marijuana would be a wholly private free-market system. Adult use cannabis sales would be taxed at 17.5 percent, generating an estimated $500 million in the first year.

Notably, the bill states that no single owner can own more than three marijuana retail shops.

Existing medical dispensaries will be allowed to sell recreational cannabis as long as they keep the two largely separate.

In a victory for some cannabis advocates, the bill allows individuals to grow up to 10 plants for personal use. Cannabis delivery, which is important to those who are disabled or homebound, as well as social lounges, are included in the measure.

“Pennsylvania’s cannabis policy is cruel, irrational and expensive,” said Leach, stressing the bill’s social justice provisions. “Prohibition has destroyed countless lives and has cost taxpayers millions. We need to stop arresting our kids and funding violent drug cartels. This is going to be a tough battle, but so was passing medical marijuana. We did that, and we’ll do this too. The stakes are too high for us to fail.”

Preparing for Legislative Battle

With more than 6 in 10 Pennsylvania voters wary of legalization, Leach and Street face a steep hill in getting their recreational marijuana bill passed.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolfe and Lt. Governor Jon Fetterman now back legalization, having announced their new stance on cannabis last month.

While Wolfe is a Democrat, the Pennsylvania legislature is controlled by Republicans and the bill’s passage in the Senate will be difficult at best.

But Street is optimistic regarding the bill’s passage, saying that he believes there is bipartisan support and that “many of [his] Republican colleagues tell [him] that they support the concept … It’s an economic, political, and moral win for both sides.”

It is time for us to join the emerging cannabis economy with the legalization of the adult-use of cannabis in PA, which should not be a crime.

The comprehensive nature of the bill led to support from cannabis officials elsewhere in the country.

Shaleen Title of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission responded to the filing of the bill by saying, “It’s largely in line with the trend that each state’s legalization law improves upon the states before it.”

Jason Mitchell, co-founder of Soulful Cannabis, an industry watchdog group, said of the bill, “It will allow us to get ownership of businesses in disenfranchised communities, communities that were the most severely impacted by the War on Drugs.”

Support for cannabis reform has become increasingly bipartisan across the country with Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) serving as a great advocate for his state’s booming cannabis industry. Eleven states so far have legalized recreational marijuana.

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