A May 2020 poll found 62% of likely voters in Pennsylvania favor legal, regulated sales of marijuana for adults 21 and older. The survey was commissioned by the Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition (PCC) and conducted by Harper Polling.
When presented with a choice, 59% of voters said cannabis should be sold through “licensed cannabis dispensaries run by private entrepreneurs” rather than “state-controlled liquor stores.” Majorities of Republicans (58%), Democrats (57%), and independents (69%) agreed.
Pennsylvania lawmaker unveils comprehensive marijuana bill
On February 11, 2020, Rep. Jake Wheatley introduced House Bill 2050. The bill builds on his 2019 proposal to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana for adult use in the Keystone State. In a memo to his colleagues, Rep. Wheatley said, “Last year I introduced House Bill 50 in the hopes of jump-starting a conversation to get adult-use cannabis legislation enacted in a comprehensive and bipartisan fashion. Unfortunately, there are still some whose ideology keeps them from allowing Pennsylvania to have such an important bipartisan conversation.”
Rep. Wheatley continued, “In the meantime, an overwhelming number of individuals and interest groups have come to see us with excellent suggestions and points of view to help improve the bill.”
Under the bill, a 10% wholesale tax would be imposed on most business-to-business transactions, but growers and processors that partner with existing farms in the state would have that tax waived. Consumers would pay a retail excise tax that would start low and increase as the program matured. The retail tax would be 6% for the first two years, 12% for the next two years, and 19% after that. Revenue from the taxes would go toward a Commonwealth Reinvestment Fund to finance a series of social programs, including a grant to promote participation of minorities and women in the industry, a student loan reimbursement initiative, an after-school program, and a public education campaign to inform residents about adult-use cannabis.
The bill has been referred to the House Health Committee. Although it is unlikely to pass, the measure echoes calls from a growing number of top officials to change Pennsylvania’s cannabis policy. In September 2019, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) came out in support of legalization. His announcement followed on the heels of Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s statewide listening tour. Fetterman visited all 67 Pennsylvania counties and reported around 65% support for legalization.
Ending prohibition is likely to be a multi-year effort. In the meantime, the state should at least stop criminalizing cannabis consumers, especially when black people in Pennsylvania are three times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania cities have been reducing their own marijuana penalties. On August 24, 2020, Upper Darby Township decriminalized simple possession of marijuana, joining Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Steelton, York, State College, Erie, Lancaster, and Bethlehem. In addition to these cities, 27 states and the District of Columbia have all stopped jailing individuals for possession of small amounts of marijuana.
February 15, 2018 was an historic day in the Keystone State! Less than two years after the governor signed Act 16into 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.
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.