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Statewide cannabis tour results in legalization proposals

Republicans likely to block action

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HARRISBURG, PA — Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman recently released recommendations from his statewide cannabis tour this June. They include the decriminalization of cannabis, automatic expungement of low-level charges of marijuana possession and the full legalization of recreational use of marijuana by adults.

Fetterman travelled to all 66 counties for the tour—he made a stop in Honesdale—and drew 10,300 attendees in total. More than 44,000 people submitted comments to Gov. Tom Wolf’s Office online, and, of the people who participated, more than 65 percent approve of legalization for recreational use.

In Wayne County, 55 percent of the people who attended the meeting approved legalization, but if all email and other communications are counted, that number jumps to 78 percent. In Pike County, 65 percent of meeting attendees were in favor of legalization, but with all email and other communications included, 82 percent favor legalization.

Those who approve of legalization now include the governor, who in the past has been hesitant to endorse it.

“We now know the majority of Pennsylvanians are in favor of legalization, and that includes me,” Wolf said at a news conference at the Capitol. Wolf announced at that conference that he would join in proposing three pieces of legislation in line with Fetterman’s recommendations. “I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish together, especially the criminal justice reforms I am proposing today, which will have an immediately positive influence on thousands of families across Pennsylvania.”

It’s likely that because of the Republican majority in the House and Senate, these reforms will not be accomplished. Republicans remain opposed to legalization and expungement. In reaction to Wolf’s call for legalization, Rep. Jerry Knowles issued a statement outlining his and others’ opposition.

“I am shocked that the governor would promote recreational use of something that has been deemed by the federal government as a dangerous and illegal drug,” he said. “Our state is in the midst of an opioid epidemic, and now he wants to make marijuana legal? Marijuana use should be strongly discouraged, not legalized.

“I am grateful that the House Republican caucus has no plans or interest in legalizing recreational marijuana. In addition, I am hoping that no action will be taken to lessen penalties on this dangerous drug.”

On the other side of the aisle, many say that the disparity between the way white people and people of color are treated for marijuana infractions calls for serious action.

“The history of disparate enforcement of our drug laws, which drives over-incarceration as well as the barriers to access of housing, education, employment and freedom must be deconstructed,” said Sen. Sharif Street. “I will work with colleagues to introduce legislation to expunge low level cannabis charges, which will include a framework of restorative justice.”

Pennsylvania’s Attorney General Josh Shapiro has also endorsed legal recreational marijuana use for adults.

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