Connect with us

Politics

Key Pennsylvania Lawmaker Says There’s A ‘Real Opportunity’ To Legalize Marijuana And Allow Interstate Commerce

Published

on

A top Pennsylvania House Democratic committee chairman says 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, even as his Republican counterpart is downplaying that possibility this session.

In interviews on PoliticsPA’s Voices of Reason podcast that were posted on Monday, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jordan Harris (D) and Minority Chairman Seth Grove (R) gave competing perspectives on the prospects of legalizing cannabis, as the governor has again called for as part of his budget request.

Harris said he does see a pathway for legalization. But short of that, he said “there’s a real opportunity to at least decriminalize it in the commonwealth.”

“I also believe that soon we’ll see the federal government doing some things around rescheduling of cannabis,” the chairman said, and he hopes that kind of reform could eventually allow farmers to export marijuana to other states.

“Pennsylvania, if we want to get in front of things, it’s high time that we legalize adult-use cannabis, tax it and create the industry here,” Harris said.

While he didn’t want to get into specifics on possible revenue from legalizing marijuana, he said it would generate a “significant amount of money” for state coffers.

“Think about all of the places in rural Pennsylvania where we just have tons of farmland. All of that could fuel a large cannabis industry here in Pennsylvania that, one, could provide cannabis here for folks in our commonwealth,” Harris said. “But, two, once it’s rescheduled at the federal level, the exporting could be tremendous because of all of the space we have. I mean, it’s a true opportunity and it’s one that I don’t think we want to miss.”

But Grove, the minority chairman of the Appropriations Committee, is doubtful that the Democratic-controlled House will be able to craft and deliver legalization legislation that could advance through the GOP majority Senate.

Since Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) included legalization in his budget proposal last month, the committee has held “three weeks of budget hearings” without having a marijuana bill to consider, Grove said.

He also challenged the idea that the Department of Agriculture is well-positioned to regulate the cannabis industry, as the governor’s plan envisions. Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding testified at an Appropriations Committee hearing last month that he was “excited” about the prospect and supports it, Grove said there’s no way to know if it could effectively oversee regulations given the current lack of legislation.

“It’s frustrating because there’s big pieces of this budget we couldn’t ask. Recreational marijuana was one of them, right?” he said. “There’s no legislation out there. It is a major funding source of the governor’s budget this year and into the future.”

He also questioned whether it was “deliberate” that the governor included legalization in the budget without having a bill for lawmakers to review.

“Was it deliberate to circumvent the entire budget hearing process so we couldn’t drill down into the details of it? Maybe,” Grove said. “It’s a good tactic for the administration. Again, devious—I would consider that pretty devious.”

“I don’t see the Senate Republicans coming in and saying, ‘Okay, here’s your recreational marijuana,” he said. “Because it’s a trade. They’re going to ask for something big, and I don’t think the House Democrats are going to be there to carry that.”

The governor, meanwhile, said last month that he thinks officials in the state “don’t even have a choice anymore” on legalizing marijuana, and he feels there’s bipartisan momentum that lawmakers should leverage to get the job done.

With neighboring states such as Ohio enacting legalization in recent years, Shapiro said that “this really comes down to an issue now of competitiveness,” as the state is currently “losing out on 250 million bucks a year in revenue that could go to anything from economic development, education, you name it.”

A staffer in Shapiro’s office similarly remarked on the need to legalize marijuana after Ohio voters approved the reform at the ballot last November.

Also last month, Pennsylvania lawmakers convened another hearing on marijuana legalization issues—focusing on the industry perspective, with multiple stakeholders from cannabis growing, dispensing and testing businesses, as well as clinical registrants, testifying.

“From the outset, my personal goals for adult-use has been to put health and safety of our constituents first and to allow for equitable and meaningful opportunities, particularly for those harmed by the war on drugs,” Rep. Dan Frankel (D), chair of the full Health Committee who previously sponsored cannabis legalization legislation, said at the beginning of that hearing.

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.


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.

Learn more about our marijuana bill tracker and become a supporter on Patreon to get access.

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.

U.S. Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) also recently complained that Pennsylvania is being “lapped” on marijuana policy as other states in the region enact legalization.

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

A Republican state senator also says he will soon introduce legislation that would remove barriers under state law to medical marijuana patients carrying firearms.

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 last month found that about two-thirds of Pennsylvania voters in the state support enacting marijuana legalization.

What Happened In VP Harris’s Marijuana Meeting At The White House After Media Left The Room, According To An Activist Who Was There

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

Marijuana Moment is made possible with support from readers. If you rely on our cannabis advocacy journalism to stay informed, please consider a monthly Patreon pledge.
Become a patron at Patreon!

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Sacramento-based managing editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE and attn.

Advertisement

Marijuana News In Your Inbox

Get our daily newsletter.

Support Marijuana Moment

Marijuana News In Your Inbox

 

Get our daily newsletter.