During a torrent of tweets in a recent social media-based Town Hall “meeting,” Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf expressed interest in looking into the legalization of using marijuana for recreational purposes.
“More and more states are successfully implementing marijuana legalization, and we need to keep learning from their efforts,” Gov. Wolf tweeted. “Any change would take legislation. But I think it is time for Pennsylvania to take a serious and honest look at recreational marijuana.”
Wolf held what he calls a “Twitter Townhall,” where participants can tweet questions on any subject which the governor can then answer, or swipe left. Wolf discussed a number of issues during the December 19 social media meeting, including raising the minimum wage and criminal justice reform; however, it was his tweet about recreational marijuana that pot politicos applauded.
“Happy marijuana holidays!” Chris Goldstein, an organizer for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws told Philadelphia’s The Inquirer. “This is a new position for Gov. Wolf. We’re grateful that he’s come around.”
More and more states are successfully implementing marijuana legalization, and we need to keep learning from their efforts. Any change would take legislation. But I think it is time for Pennsylvania to take a serious and honest look at recreational marijuana. https://t.co/LHOmYKzMyp
— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) December 19, 2018
Will Gov. Wolf keep this new legislative resolution?
While Wolf signed legislation legalizing medical marijuana back in 2016, he isn’t known for being overtly pro-pot. Cannabis consumers and concerned voters alike have to wonder if this is like a New Year’s resolution, something the Gov. will pursue during the first few weeks, maybe even a month into the new legislative year, but then will abandon like a new gym membership.
As recently of August of this year, Wolf said in a local radio station interview that he didn’t think the Quaker State was ready to address the issue of legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
“There are, what, six states that have legalized recreational marijuana in the United States,” Wolf told KDKA 1020 in Pittsburgh. “I don’t think the citizens of Pennsylvania are ready for it, and so the answer I would say is no.”
While Wolf tweeted that it is time to take a look into legalizing marijuana, he emphasized that the move would require legislation on the issue. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania currently has a Republican-dominated state legislature. While several state lawmakers are expected to introduce legislation addressing the legalization of recreational marijuana use, the bill would have to survive a conservative committee process.
State Senators Daylin Leach (Dem. - Montgomery) and Sharif Street (Dem. - Philadelphia) are sponsoring legislation which would legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Additionally, State Representatives Jake Wheatley (Dem. - Allegheny) and Jordan Harris (Dem. - Philadelphia) are also planning on reintroducing previously failed legislation on the same topic.
Well if all of the other states are doing it…
Perhaps Wolf sees the political push for pot. Pennsylvania is surrounded by states supporting the legalization of the recreational use of marijuana, including New Jersey, Delaware, and New York.
The current governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy, ran on a pro-legalization platform. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled plans to push for the legalization of recreational marijuana during the 2019 legislative session earlier this week, and even Pennsylvania-based legislators are enthused by Wolf’s change of tune. Or tweet, rather.
“I’m excited and encouraged by the governor’s change of heart,” Sen. Leach told The Inquirer. “The experience of other states shows that ending prohibition has no downside to it. Additionally, it will go a long way moving the ball forward on criminal justice reform. I’m sure whatever bill we pass will be the best in the nation.”
Leach isn’t the only politician with a pro-pot leaning. Pennsylvania State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released a report in July 2018, estimating that legalizing, regulating, and taxing recreational marijuana could save Pennsylvania $581 million per year in revenue.
“Imagine what that $581 million could mean for Pennsylvanians,” DePasquale said. “Not only would it help balance the state budget, but it would also mean increases to initiatives that affect Pennsylvanians’ lives, such as greater access to opioid treatment and better health care access for veterans and children.”
Perhaps Pennsylvania will be the next state added to pot top ten states. Only the 2019 legislative session will tell.