Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) said on Wednesday that he now supports legalizing marijuana, and he called on the legislature to “seriously debate” passing legislation to that end while also taking more immediate steps to decriminalize possession of cannabis and expunge prior records.
Following a listening tour during which Lieutenant Gov. John Fetterman (D) visited all Pennsylvania counties to hear from constituents about their marijuana stance, Wolf’s office received a final report on the findings, which showed that 68 percent of people who attended the sessions support legalization.
Further, 82 percent of those who submitted comment to the office, whether online, through mail, fax or phone, said they were in favor of adult-use legalization.
“We now know the majority of Pennsylvanians are in favor of legalization, and that includes me,” Gov. Wolf said at a press conference. “I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish together, especially the criminal justice reforms I am proposing today, which will have an immediately positive influence on thousands of families across Pennsylvania.
Watch video of Wolf and Fetterman’s marijuana remarks below:
This marks an evolution for the governor, who previously said that Pennsylvania was not ready to legalize. He only went so far as to say that it’s time to consider legalization when the listening tour was announced in January.
— Office of the Governor (@GovernorsOffice) September 25, 2019
Wolf laid out three recommendations based on the report: 1) the legislature should pass a bill to decriminalize low-level cannabis offenses, 2) it should also pass legislation providing for the expungements of prior marijuana convictions and 3) “seriously debate” legalizing cannabis for adult use.
In addition to legalizing recreational marijuana, I’m calling on the PA Legislature to:
🔹Decriminalize minor cannabis-related offenses
🔹Expunge past convictions of minor cannabis-related crimes
— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) September 25, 2019
Wolf suggested that that last policy recommendation might take longer than the others but voiced his support for it nonetheless, describing legalization as being aligned with his broader criminal justice reform platform.
Fetterman, a vocal proponent of cannabis reform, led the town hall-style listening sessions.
“We’ve heard you, and this announcement today is our earnest effort to bring about the changes you’ve told us you want,” Fetterman, whose tour attracted more than 10,000 residents, said on Wednesday.
“If you are opposed to the recreational, adult use of cannabis, that is a minority view now in Pennsylvania.”
He added that individuals with low-level marijuana offenses don’t have to wait for expungement legislation and can apply “right away” for an expedited pardon from the governor.
“That’s a process that’s already been established and we’re going to expedite and aggregate those charges for pardons and move them and get them to the governor’s desk in a way that recognizes we want to free these Pennsylvanians up from these small types of infractions that can really jam up their personal and professional lives,” he said.
Later in the press conference, Wolf was asked if he had any thoughts about the spate of vaping-related injuries occurring throughout the country, and he responded that the problem “reinforces the thought that we need to make this legal.”
“Where the problems seem to be coming from is with illicit things being added to what people are ingesting,” he said. “You don’t add illicit things if you have a regulated, above-board industry that you can sue, that you can go after and can seek legal redress. You can’t do when it’s illegal.”
The announcement came on the same day that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) met to discuss plans to coordinate marijuana legalization plans among states in the Northeast region.
Read Pennsylvania marijuana legalization report below:
Photo courtesy of Gov. Tom Wolf.