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Biden’s Marijuana Rescheduling Move ‘Adds Support’ For Pennsylvania Legalization Effort, Governor’s Office Says



The Biden administration’s move to federally reschedule marijuana “adds support” for an effort to legalize cannabis in Pennsylvania, the governor’s office says.

While moving marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) would not legalize it, a spokesperson for Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) says the move could bolster state-level reform efforts.

“Governor Shapiro has made clear that we need to catch up—practically every one of our neighbors has legalized marijuana and is benefiting from hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity and revenue—and this important step by the federal government only adds support to the Governor’s proposal,” Shapiro’s spokesperson Manuel Bonder told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Thursday.

Shapiro once again proposed legalization as part of his budget request in February, seeking to establish a system that would be implemented starting this summer. Lawmakers have also been holding a series of hearings to discuss various policy considerations as they work to draft a legalization bill.

Rescheduling marijuana under the CSA wouldn’t federally legalize it, but advocates and stakeholders hope that the modest reform will act as a catalyst both for congressional and state-level legislation.

“The Shapiro Administration stands ready to work with the General Assembly to take advantage of this opportunity to legalize marijuana and make our Commonwealth more competitive and more just,” Bonder said.

Two Pennsylvania legislative panels held a joint hearing to discuss marijuana legalization last week, with multiple lawmakers asking the state’s top liquor regulator about the prospect of having that agency run cannabis shops.

Last month, members of that panel had a conversation centered on social justice and equity considerations for reform.

That took place days after Rep. Amen Brown (D) filed a marijuana legalization bill that he described as “grounded in safety and social equity.”

At a prior meeting in March, members focused on criminal justice implications of prohibition and the potential benefits of reform.

At another hearing in February, members looked at the industry perspective, with multiple stakeholders from cannabis growing, dispensing and testing businesses, as well as clinical registrants, testifying.

At the subcommittee’s previous cannabis meeting in December, members heard testimony and asked questions about various elements of marijuana oversight, including promoting social equity and business opportunities, laboratory testing and public versus private operation of a state-legal cannabis industry.

And during the panel’s first meeting late last year, Frankel said that state-run stores are “certainly an option” he’s considering for Pennsylvania, similar to what New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) recommended for that state last year, though a state commission later shied away from that plan.

The cannabis proposal the Brown filed in the House last month is an identical companion to a bipartisan Senate cannabis legalization measure that was introduced last year.

Meanwhile, a former DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson recently said the agency’s marijuana rescheduling proposal is “understandable” because it “reflects the reality” of public opinion toward the medical value of cannabis—even if he personally has concerns about the broader move toward reform.

A Democratic congressman also told Marijuana Moment on Tuesday that, in light of DEA’s rescheduling determination, he expects the Justice Department will “reissue and expand” the Obama-era guidance that generally formalized a policy of non-intervention with respect to state marijuana laws.

Marijuana Moment is tracking more than 1,400 cannabis, psychedelics and drug policy bills in state legislatures and Congress this year. Patreon supporters pledging at least $25/month get access to our interactive maps, charts and hearing calendar so they don’t miss any developments.

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Back in Pennsylvania, the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) released a report in March that found the state stands to generate $271 million in annual revenue if marijuana is legalized and taxed according to the governor’s proposal—but it would have been more if the commonwealth hadn’t been lapped by other neighboring states that have already enacted the reform.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jordan Harris (D) said in a recent interview that it’s “high time” to legalize marijuana and lay the groundwork for businesses in the state to export cannabis to other markets if federal law changes—and he sees a “real opportunity” to do so.

However, the committee’s minority chairman, Rep. Seth Grove (R), said he’s doubtful that the Democratic-controlled House will be able to craft and deliver legalization legislation that could advance through the GOP majority Senate.

Pennsylvania lawmakers also recently advanced a pair of bills meant to prevent police from charging medical cannabis patients with impaired driving without proof of intoxication.

A Republican senator in Pennsylvania introduced a bill last month meant to remove state barriers to medical marijuana patients carrying firearms after previewing the legislation and soliciting co-sponsors earlier this year.

In December, the governor signed a bill to allow all licensed medical marijuana grower-processors in the state to serve as retailers and sell their cannabis products directly to patients. Independent dispensaries could also start cultivating their own marijuana.

A poll released in February found that about two-thirds of Pennsylvania voters in the state support enacting marijuana legalization.

Former DEA Head Says Marijuana Rescheduling ‘Reflects The Reality’ Of Public Support For Reform

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