Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania strongly supports bill to legalize cannabis


Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

The title of this post shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to you if you’re a Pennsylvanian. After all, Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman has long spoken about his desires to legalize recreational cannabis in Pennsylvania. However, his recent words have prompted Gov. Tom Wolf to request that lawmakers legalize the plant. 

And no… before you start pondering over the idea of Lt. Gov. Fetterman puffing on a joint, he claims in a Facebook Live conversation with PennLive Opinions Editor Joyce Davis that he doesn’t use the plant.  

“I haven’t used cannabis’. I’ll take a drug test if that’s what it takes,” he said during the one-hour long conversation, adding that, “You don’t have to use a substance in order to advocate that it should be safe, legal, regulated, taxed for the benefit of everybody and available to any adult that wants to use it safely in the privacy and comfort of their own home in a responsible way.”

During the discussion about cannabis legalization in Pennsylvania, Fetterman noted how his 2019 statewide listening tour drew his attention to the level of support for an adult-use market in the state. He claims that legalization is the “right side of history.”

Obstacles remain, however, with House and Senate Republican leaders stating that they do not believe the topic of cannabis legalization in Pennsylvania to be a priority at the current time. Currently, two legalization bills are awaiting review in the House and Senate, with the GOP-controlled chambers unlikely to push for legalization this November.

Fetterman anticipates that legal cannabis in Pennsylvania could yield $250 million annually

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale pinned an annual valuation of approximately $125 million on the prospective legal cannabis market in Pennsylvania. His revenue estimates are significantly less than the $250 million that Fetterman believes the market could generate on an annual basis.

“We’re getting zero” at the current time, says Fetterman. On the plus side, if he is correct in his predictions, legal cannabis in Pennsylvania could attract $5 billion over a 20-year period. Aside from the sale of recreational cannabis in Pennsylvania, Fetterman feels confident that a legal market would address social justice issues and create an influx of new job opportunities. 

As the November vote for legal cannabis in New Jersey fast approaches, Fetterman is feeling the pressure to legalize cannabis in Pennsylvania. With the vast majority of New Jersey’s residents likely to vote for legal weed at the forthcoming election, it’s probable that as much as 40 percent of Pennsylvania’s population will be within driving distance of the neighboring state’s legal market.

“I support the bill that would get through the Pennsylvania Legislature and whatever that looks like because that’s the reality in Harrisburg,” said Fetterman, who hasn’t specifically shown support for one type of bill. “It’s got to be bipartisan and the underlying dynamics is that cannabis is very bipartisan,” added the Lieutenant Governor, who also wants lawmakers to consider low-level cannabis conviction expungement.

If Democrats manage to gain influence over anti-cannabis Republicans at the November elections, Fetterman believes that cannabis decriminalization, legalization and rescheduling would follow shortly after. Should this happen, he said that it would spur on a “supernova of development across the country.” This, he says, is something that “he would rather not be behind on.”

Legal cannabis in Pennsylvania could enhance safety for consumers 

A major talking point for Fetterman’s argument regarding legal cannabis in Pennsylvania surrounds the dangers of alternative substances e.g. alcohol, prescribable opioids, tobacco, gambling and firearms that are more easily accessible than the plant. Despite being easier to get hold of, Fetterman says that the aforementioned substances carry a hefty health risk for consumers.

“Here is the truth about cannabis: No overdose deaths have ever been medically reported. It is not addictive physically and it is a plant,” he explained. “You can grow it in your yard like a tomato plant. This idea that it’s an insidious narcotic is just simply reefer madness and that’s really the last thing prohibitionists are clinging to at this point.”

Pennsylvania’s currently-thriving black market creates an element of danger for the state’s cannabis consumers; they may expose themselves to hazardous substances and chemicals if they consume unethically-grown contaminated products. Legalization, Fetterman says, could eliminate uncertainties and enhance consumer safety.

“What could that revenue do for our commonwealth?” he said. “We have a thriving cannabis market within Pennsylvania already. It’s just illegal. And all of the revenue and all of that is going to drug cartels and we are left with criminality. We are left with unknown purity levels. We are left with a sales force, for lack of a better phrase, that sells a lot of addictive and truly harmful substances.”

The Lieutenant Governor concluded by saying that cannabis legalization in Pennsylvania “is not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when.”