Cannabis News Box

Pennsylvania’s governor is warming up to legalization


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Thor Benson / Cannabis News Box Contributor

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf appears to be warming up to the idea of legalizing cannabis. Wolf has previously advocated for decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of cannabis, but he has never fully supported legalization. That might be changing.

“More and more states are successfully implementing marijuana legalization, and Pennsylvania should learn from their efforts,” Wolf said on Twitter recently. “Any change would take legislation… But I think it is time for Pennsylvania to take a serious and honest look at recreational marijuana.”

That might be easier said than done, as the Republican-controlled legislature in Pennsylvania is not exactly pro-legalization. Efforts to decriminalize possession have even been walked back in the legislature. Though Republican lawmakers are largely against decriminalization in the state, Republican Rep. Barry Jozwiak put forward a decriminalization bill that was defeated earlier this year.

“Downgrading this offense from a misdemeanor to a summary offense would have a positive effect on local law enforcement efforts, allowing police and prosecutors to focus their time and resources on more serious offenses,” Jozwiak said at the time.

Patrick Nightingale, executive director of Pittsburgh’s NORML office, told Cannabis News Box that Pennsylvania residents support legalization, but the Republicans in the state are preventing it from happening. He said they have spread a lot of misinformation when it comes to legalization.

“I guess it was too hard to Google ‘teen marijuana use in legal states’ to see it has declined,” Nightingale said. “The ‘gateway drug’ myth is proven a myth by declining opioid & heroin use in legal states. On the positive side Rep. Jozwiak… will hopefully re-introduce his Decrim bill.  It’s not great, but [it] would help thousands of Pennsylvanians avoid the criminal justice system.”

Nightingale said he thinks lawmakers might be waiting to see how the state’s relatively new medical cannabis system works out before deciding on legalization. That said, the success of legalization in other states might be helping move things forward. He noted that over $600 million in revenues could be taxed by the state once it legalized.

“Our bridges are in need of ‘support,’ our public schools & public transportation need help,” Nightingale said. “We have a massive budget deficit.” All of that could be helped if Pennsylvania decided to legalize.

Nightingale said he hasn’t seen any groups organizing to stop legalization yet, but he noted the law enforcement crowd appears to be against legalization and would likely fight any effort to legalize in the state.

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