Pennsylvania governor supports legalization!
Last update: October 2, 2019
The conversation about whether Pennsylvania should legalize and regulate marijuana for adults is picking up steam.
From February through May 2019, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman held a statewide listening tour on cannabis legalization and visited all 67 Pennsylvania counties. He reported around 65% support for legalization. In September, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) came out in support.
Shortly after, Rep. David Delloso (D) introduced a legalization bill that would create state-run cannabis stores — which are not viable due to federal prohibition. Rep. Jake Wheatley (D), who proposed a legalization bill last year, is also expected to sponsor legislation.
Meanwhile, significant obstacles remain to passing any legalization bill: The Pennsylvania House of Representatives’ Republican leaders promptly derided the governor’s support for legalization.
Patients and their loved ones didn’t give up when House Speaker Mike Turzai (R) tried to slam the door shut on medical cannabis, and advocates can’t give up now because of his disdain for cannabis policy reform. Next year is an election year. If legislators don’t evolve by November 2020, voters will have a chance to change who represents them in Harrisburg.
Decriminalization bill makes progress
On October 9, 2018, for the first time, the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee approved a bill to reduce the penalty for simple possession of marijuana to a fine. The bill did not receive a vote before the legislature adjourned in November 2018. The legislature is now in the midst of its 2019-2020 legislative session. Please let your state lawmakers know you want them to pass a decriminalization bill.
Given leadership’s opposition to legalization, ending prohibition is likely to be a multi-year effort. In the meantime, the state should at least stop criminalizing cannabis consumers.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania cities have been reducing their own marijuana penalties. On March 19, 2019, Steelton decriminalized simple possession of marijuana, joining Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, York, State College, Erie, Lancaster, and Bethlehem. In addition to these cities, 26 states and the District of Columbia have all stopped jailing individuals for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
To get involved locally, contact the Keystone Cannabis Coalition. You can find some background materials on decriminalization here.
Medical marijuana sales underway
February 15, 2018 was an historic day in the Keystone State. Less than two years after the governor signed Act 16 into law, dispensaries began selling medical marijuana to patients and caregivers. Pennsylvania is expected to be one of the largest medical marijuana markets in the country. As of February 2019, around 50 dispensaries across the state are operational, with dozens more anticipated.
In another exciting development, on May 12, 2018, the Health Department published revised regulations making several important improvements to the medical cannabis program. The regulations allow patient access to medical cannabis flower and expand qualifying conditions — including substitute therapy for opiate addiction. The changes were all recommended by the Medical Marijuana Advisory Board.
Congratulations to the department of health and all of the lawmakers and advocates who made this possible!
Medical cannabis resources
MPP has developed a number of fact sheets for Pennsylvania patients, caregivers, doctors, and employers. Please print and share these materials with others, including your physician.
- Department of Health Guide to the Program
- Summary of Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act
- How to Talk to Your Doctor About Medical Marijuana
- Guide for Doctors and Patients
- Guide for Employers and Employees
- Research and Evidence on Qualifying Conditions