Pennsylvania legalization debate heats up!
Last update: March 27, 2019
The conversation about whether Pennsylvania should legalize and regulate marijuana for adults is picking up steam.
In December, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) said the state should take a “serious and honest look” at legalization. Then, on February 11, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman kicked off a statewide listening tour on legalization. Fetterman’s listening tour will include visits to all 67 counties. You can check out upcoming stops here and weigh in online here.
Supporters should take advantage of this opportunity to make their voices heard. To prepare, check out MPP’s background materials — such as the top 10 reasons to regulate cannabis and a snapshot of how things are going in Colorado and Washington six years into legalization.
In other exciting news, Rep. Jake Wheatley (D) and 26 cosponsors introduced a bill to relegate cannabis prohibition to the dustbin of history. Write your legislators to voice your support for ending prohibition.
On July 19, 2018, Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released a report projecting Pennsylvania could generate $581 million per year if it ends marijuana prohibition and taxes and regulates cannabis for adults 21 and older.
While these developments are encouraging, House Speaker Mike Turzai (R) is staunchly opposed, and Senate leadership is also an obstacle. Both the House and Senate have Republican majorities, and no Republican legislator in Pennsylvania has voiced support for legalization yet. It’s all the more important that supporters of humane policy make their voices heard.
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. Now that the 2019-2020 legislative session is underway, 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, 23 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 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. 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