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Pennsylvania Governor Says Marijuana Legalization Is A Priority In Budget Negotiations With Lawmakers

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The governor of Pennsylvania says marijuana legalization is a priority as he begins annual budget negotiations with lawmakers—even though his formal spending request doesn’t seem to contain any legislative language to actually accomplish the cannabis policy change.

Gov. Tom Wolf (D) has repeatedly called for legalization and pressured the Republican-controlled legislature to pursue the reform. He continued that advocacy on Wednesday, saying in his budget speech that there’s “a lot more in the budget, including a number of things that I know have bipartisan support.” He listed cannabis legalization as one of those items.

Watch the governor discuss marijuana legalization and his budget plan below: 

In a supplementary legislative plan for 2021, the governor said that “Pennsylvania has built a successful medical marijuana program through bipartisan work,” and now “it’s time to take the next step and legalize recreational marijuana in the commonwealth with an emphasis on helping businesses and restorative justice.”

On top of ending prohibition, Wolf said that reform legislation will “support historically disadvantaged small businesses through grant funding and provide them the assistance they need to build back from the economic crisis and strengthen our economy.”

“Additionally, a portion of the revenue will support restorative justice programs to help the individuals and communities that have been adversely harmed by the criminalization of marijuana,” he said. “Combined, these initiatives will serve as a step forward in reversing the decades of injustices, economic harm and trauma caused by marijuana criminalization, particularly on minority communities.”

“As our neighbors move toward legalizing recreational marijuana, we cannot afford to be left behind,” Wolf said. “Legalizing recreational marijuana has strong bipartisan support among Pennsylvanians.”

That language is similar to what his office put forward in an agenda that was released last week.

But again, while the governor seems to be using the budget process as an opportunity to reiterate the need to enact legalization, it does not appear in the proposed spending legislation itself that he submitted to lawmakers. Marijuana Moment reached out to Wolf’s office for clarification, but a representative did not respond by the time of publication.

The budget does call for $14,592,000 in appropriations to support the state’s existing medical cannabis program, however.

“Beyond these budget initiatives, the next year must include policy reforms that focus on making our criminal justice
system fair, efficient, and restorative,” the formal proposal states. “Similarly, the legalization of adult-use cannabis will begin to eliminate the harm that has been caused in our society by the criminalization of marijuana.”

The governor hasn’t shied away from the issue since he came out in favor of adult-use legalization in 2019. But while his apparent optimism about bipartisan support for the policy change is consistent with public polling, it isn’t necessarily reflective of the sentiment in the GOP-controlled legislature.

In September, Wolf took a dig at GOP lawmakers for failing to act on reform in the previous session. And in August, he suggested that the state itself could potentially control marijuana sales rather than just license private retailers as other legalized jurisdictions have done.

Shortly after the governor announced that he was embracing the policy change, a lawmaker filed a bill to legalize marijuana through a state-run model.

A majority of Senate Democrats sent Wolf a letter in July arguing that legislators should pursue the policy change in order to generate revenue to make up for losses resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, reform advocates also have a strong champion of legalization in Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D).

The top official, who is weighing a run for the U.S. Senate, previously led a listening tour across the state to solicit public input on legalization. He’s credited that effort with helping to move the governor toward embracing comprehensive reform.

While Republican lawmakers have resisted these calls, Fetterman has put his support centerstage, including by hanging marijuana-themed flags at his Capitol office.

In an interview with Marijuana Moment last week, he said the decor was removed this week at the behest of certain GOP members who passed a temporary budget restricting the types of flags that can be flown on government property—but he promptly put them back up.

“There’s one great way to get them down for good and we can end this,” the lieutenant governor said. And that’s by enacting legislative reform.

Fetterman previously told Marijuana Moment that pursuing legalization through the governor’s budget request was a possibility. He added that the administration is exploring the constitutionality of issuing “wholesale pardons for certain marijuana convictions and charges.”

He’s also said that farmers in his state can grow better marijuana than people in New Jersey—where voters approved a legalization referendum in November—and that’s one reason why Pennsylvania should expeditiously reform its cannabis laws.

In September, the lieutenant governor hosted a virtual forum where he got advice on how to effectively implement a cannabis system from his counterparts in Illinois and Michigan, which have enacted legalization.

Meanwhile, Wolf isn’t the only governor to push for legalization as part of their budget proposals.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) marijuana legalization plan was released last month as part of his budget request for 2021, drawing mixed reviews from advocates. This is the third year in a row that he’s proposed the reform in this manner.

Also last month, the governor of Minnesota implored the legislature to look into legalizing marijuana as a means to boost the economy and promote racial justice. That came during a briefing focused on his budget proposal for the 2022-23 biennium, though he didn’t include language to end cannabis prohibition in his formal spending request to lawmakers.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) stressed during his State of the State speech last month that his budget proposal contains provisions to keep marijuana tax revenue flowing to schools in the state.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) included a plan to legalize marijuana through a state-run model in a budget plan last year, but lawmakers did not enact it.

Over in Wisconsin, Gov. Tony Evers (D) said late last year that he was thinking about adding cannabis legalization to his 2021 budget proposal as a means to boost tax revenue amid the coronavirus pandemic. While he attempted to get marijuana possession decriminalized and medical cannabis legalized through the budget in 2019, Republican leaders in the legislature nixed those measures from the final spending bill.

Virginia Marijuana Legalization Bills Cleared For Full Senate And House Votes This Week

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Minnesota Governor Puts Marijuana Legalization Funding In Budget Request

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The governor of Minnesota included funding to implement marijuana legalization in his annual budget request to lawmakers on Wednesday—a move that comes while Democratic legislative leaders prepare to advance the reform again this session even as it has stalled in the GOP-controlled Senate.

Gov. Tim Walz (D) has consistently expressed support for the policy change, but he declined to propose putting dollars toward implementation in his last budget request. Now he says he wants funding for multiple programs and departments to launch an adult-use marijuana market in line with a bill that passed the Democratic-controlled House last year.

The governor’s recommended funding for legalization would go to numerous state agencies, including those dealing with education, health, public safety, human services, the state Supreme Court, corrections and more.

The budget “also includes funding for grants to assist individuals entering the legal cannabis market, provides for expungement of non-violent offenses involving cannabis, and implements taxes on adult-use cannabis,” the request says.

“The Governor and Lieutenant Governor know that Minnesota needs modernized solutions to harness the benefits of legalizing cannabis, including expanding our economy, creating jobs across the state, allowing law enforcement to focus on violent crime, and regulating the industry in order to keep our kids safe,” a press release says. “The Governor and Lieutenant Governor recommend funding for the safe and responsible legalization of cannabis for adult-use in Minnesota.”

“A new Cannabis Management Office would be responsible for the implementation of the regulatory framework for adult-use cannabis, along with the medical cannabis program, and a program to regulate hemp and hemp-derived products. The recommendation also includes funding for grants to assist individuals entering the legal cannabis market, additional resources for substance use disorder treatment and prevention, provides for expungement of non-violent offenses involving cannabis, and implements taxes on adult-use cannabis.”

“Prohibiting the use of cannabis in Minnesota hasn’t worked.”

Previously, in 2019, the governor directed state agencies to prepare to implement reform in anticipation of legalization eventually passing.

While advocates are hopeful that the sponsors of that legislation will be able to make revisions and advance it through the House again this year, its prospects in the Republican-controlled Senate are less certain. House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (D) and Senate Minority Leader Melisa Franzen (D) discussed the legislative strategy for enacting the reform last week.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 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.

“Because of the hard work done by advocates in recent years, legalizing cannabis for adult-use within a regulated market and expungement of past cannabis convictions is now a mainstream idea that has the support of the Minnesota House of Representatives and Governor Tim Walz,” Winkler said in a press release on Wednesday, reacting to the budget proposal.

“Senate Republicans are now the sole barrier preventing Minnesota from legalizing cannabis and expanding adults’ personal freedoms,” he said. “I invite Senate Republicans to collaborate with advocates and lawmakers this year to advance mainstream policies like legalizing adult-use cannabis and expunging cannabis convictions.”

Winkler previously said that his bill, which moved through 12 committees before being approved on the floor, is the “product of hundreds of hours of work involving thousands of people’s input, countless hearings and public listening sessions—but it is not a perfect bill.”

“We will be working with our colleagues in the Minnesota Senate,” he added. “We’re interested in pursuing legalization to make sure that the bill represents senators’ priorities for legalization as well.”

Leili Fatehi, campaign manager of Minnesotans for Responsible Marijuana Regulation, told Marijuana Moment that the governor’s “inclusion of cannabis legalization as a priority in his proposed supplemental budget is directly responsive to the issues Minnesotans care about most right now.”

That includes “the need for more good-paying jobs and more opportunities for Minnesota’s farmers, small businesses, and local economies; the need to expunge the past cannabis records of people who are needlessly shut out of the struggling labor market; the need to free up our public safety and criminal justice systems to focus on real violent crimes and criminals; and the need to undo the decades of harm our prohibition laws have inflicted on our neighbors and communities of color,” Fatehi said.

While legalization wasn’t ultimately enacted last session, the governor did sign a bill to expand the state’s medical marijuana program, in part by allowing patients to access smokable cannabis products.

A poll conducted by Minnesota lawmakers that was released last year found that 58 percent of residents are in favor of legalization. That’s a modest increase compared to the chamber’s 2019 survey, which showed 56 percent support.

The House majority leader said in 2020 that if Senate Republicans don’t go along with the policy change legislatively, he hopes they will at least let voters decide on cannabis as a 2022 ballot measure.

Governors outside of Minnesota have also been talking up marijuana reform at the start of the new year.

For example, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) released a State of the State book earlier this month that called for the creation of a $200 million public-private fund to specifically help promote social equity in the state’s burgeoning marijuana market. And her budget estimated that New York stands to generate more than $1.25 billion in marijuana tax revenue over the next six years.

The governor of Rhode Island included a proposal to legalize marijuana as part of his annual budget plan—the second time he’s done so. And time around, he also added new language to provide for automatic cannabis expungements in the state.

Wisconsin Republicans Announce Limited Medical Marijuana Legalization Bill

Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

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Wisconsin Republicans Announce Limited Medical Marijuana Legalization Bill

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More than a dozen Republican Wisconsin lawmakers announced on Wednesday that they are filing a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state.

Sen. Mary Felzkowski (R) and Rep. Patrick Snyder (R) are leading the bicameral effort, though advocates are already skeptical considering how the GOP-legislature has historically resisted and blocked cannabis reform. On Tuesday, for example, the Senate passed a bill to increase penalties for people who use butane to extract marijuana resin, and GOP members also shot down an amendment to the measure that would have legalized adult-use cannabis.

The Republican-led medical cannabis legislation is also fairly restrictive, as it prohibits smokable marijuana products and doesn’t allow patients to grow cannabis for personal use. Patients could only obtain cannabis preparations in the form of oils, pills, tinctures or topicals.

What it would do is allow doctors to issue medical cannabis recommendations to patients with one of eight conditions, including cancer, seizure disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and multiple sclerosis.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has expressed support for medical cannabis reform, and the lead Senate sponsor said at Wednesday’s press conference that Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R) is “more than willing” to hold a hearing on the proposal.

Under the bill, a medical marijuana regulatory commission would be established through the Department of Revenue to promulgate rules for the program in consultation with a medical cannabis advisory board. The commission could add more qualifying conditions.

Licensed processors would be taxed at a rate of 10 percent for “each wholesale sale in this state of medical marijuana to a licensed dispensary,” the text of the bill says. Revenue would go toward a medical marijuana fund to support drug prevention and treatment programs.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 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.

It does not appear that the measure contains equity provisions like expungements that are favored by progressives.

“Currently 36 other states, including our neighbors Michigan, Illinois, and Minnesota, have passed laws allowing patients with certain medical conditions to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it,” a co-sponsorship memo that Felzkowski and Snyder sent to fellow legislators on Wednesday says. “Medicine is never one-size-fits-all, and it is time for Wisconsin to join the majority of the country in adding another option which may help patients find the relief they need.”

The memo also discusses how voters in multiple cities and counties across Wisconsin have strongly approved local, non-binding ballot referendums expressing support for marijuana reform in recent years.

“Wisconsinites who have discussed the positive benefits of using marijuana for medicinal purposes with their primary care physicians are currently forced to endure pain and physical agony, traffic drugs into Wisconsin and become criminals, or be held hostage by the FDA approved pain killers that may alleviate their pain, but come with a host of side effects that diminish quality of life,” a summary of the proposal says.

This isn’t the only cannabis bill that’s up for consideration in the Wisconsin legislature.

In November, a bipartisan pair of legislators introduced a bill to decriminalize low-level marijuana possession. In August, three senators separately filed legislation to legalize cannabis for adult use in the state.

As it stands, marijuana possession is punishable by a maximum $1,000 fine and up to six months in jail for a first offense. People convicted of a subsequent offense would face a felony charge punishable by a maximum $10,000 fine and up to three and a half years in prison.

Gov. Tony Evers (D) tried to legalize recreational and medical marijuana through his proposed state budget last year, but a GOP-led legislative committee stripped the cannabis language from the legislation. Democrats tried to add the provisions back through an amendment the next month, but Republicans blocked the move.

Other Republican lawmakers have filed bills to more modestly decriminalize marijuana possession in the state, but none of those proposals advanced during last year’s session.

Evers held a virtual town hall event last year where he discussed his cannabis proposal, emphasizing that polling demonstrates that Wisconsin residents back the policy change.

And in the interim as lawmakers pursue reform, the governor has issued more than 300 pardons during his years in office, primarily to people convicted of non-violent marijuana or other drug offenses.

Colorado Activists File Revised Ballot Initiatives To Legalize Psilocybin And Establish ‘Healing Centers’

Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.

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Delaware Lawmakers Approve Marijuana Legalization Bill In Committee Vote

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A bill to legalize marijuana in Delaware cleared its first legislative hurdle on Wednesday, advancing out of the House Health and Human Development Committee on a 10-4 vote.

The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Ed Osienski (D), who introduced a similar proposal last year. The Health and Human Development Committee approved last year’s measure, too, but it ultimately stalled ahead of an expected floor vote due to disagreements over social equity provisions. At the time, Osienski pledged to bring a revised bill for the 2022 session that could earn broad enough support to pass.

Osienski said at the hearing that the proposal would “create good-paying jobs for Delawareans while striking a blow against the criminal element which profits from the thriving illegal market in our state.”

Rep. Paul Baumbach (D), a cosponsor of both the current and past versions of the legalization bill, thanked Osienski for his efforts to tweak and strengthen the bill over time.

“You’ve listened so much to so many concerns,” he said, “and you and the staff have incorporated so many of the best ideas there are for this matter.”

One of the few vocal opponents to the bill at Wednesday’s hearing was Rep. Charles S. Postles Jr. (R), who said he didn’t “believe in either extreme, that of legalization or of excessive punitiveness” and worried that legalization would send a message to kids that cannabis use is safe. “We’re talking about the government telling our young people, ‘This stuff is fine. Go do it.'”

The bill, HB 305, would allow adults 21 and older to purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis, including up to five grams of cannabis concentrates. Growing marijuana at home, as well as home delivery by licensed businesses, would be prohibited.

A marijuana commissioner under the state Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Enforcement would regulate the industry and oversee licensing of retailers, cultivators, manufacturers and laboratories. Licenses would be granted through a scored, competitive process, with advantages given to those who pay workers a living wage, provide health insurance or meet certain other benchmarks.


Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,000 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.

Efforts at social equity are built into the licensing scheme. After 19 months of the bill’s enactment, for example, regulators would have to approve 30 retailer licenses, half of which would go to social equity applicants. Social equity applicants—defined as entities majority-owned by people with past cannabis convictions or who live in an area disproportionately impacted by the drug war—would also be allotted one-third of the planned 60 cultivation licenses, one-third of manufacturing licenses and two of five licenses for testing laboratories.

Equity applicants would also qualify for reduced application and licensing fees as well as technical assistance from the state.

Retail sales of cannabis would be subject to a 15 percent excise tax, which would not be applied to medical marijuana products.

Of the tax revenue, 7 percent would go to a new Justice Reinvestment Fund, which would support grants, services and other initiatives that focus on issues such as jail diversion, workforce development and technical assistance for people in communities that are economically disadvantaged and disproportionately impacted by the drug war. The money would also be used to help facilitate expungements, according to a summary from the advocacy group Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).

When Osienski’s earlier bill was being considered last year, a similar equity fund provision was included, and the sponsor said he was caught off guard when he was informed that its inclusion meant the bill would require 75 percent of legislators in the chamber to approve it.

Osienski attempted to address the problem through an amendment, but some members of the Black Caucus opposed the changes, and the measure failed.

The current bill will still require a supermajority threshold to pass, but a smaller one of 60 percent.

Osienski has worked with the Black Caucus in the ensuing months to build support and move toward more passable legislation. And a clear sign of the progress is that Reps. Rae Moore (D) and Nnamdi Chukwuocha (D) have already signed on as cosponsors to the new bill after pulling their support for the 2021 version over equity concerns.

Chukwoucha said at Wednesday’s hearing that he believed past versions of the bill fell short on addressing past injustice against people of color. The current version, he said, does better.

“We spoke about the harms in communities and [how] individuals who look like me are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses, but we didn’t really see redress in the bill,” Chukwoucha said. He thanked Osienski for working with stakeholders to address those concerns.

In 2019, Osienski was the chief sponsor of a legalization bill that cleared a House committee but did not advance through the full chamber. That bill would have allowed medical cannabis dispensaries to begin selling marijuana to adults 21 and older while the rest of the adult-use industry was still preparing to launch, a provision that was removed from later versions.

Four of the state’s six medical marijuana companies came out publicly against that change and testified in opposition to last year’s bill. In response, Delaware activists mounted a boycott against those operators.

During public testimony on Wednesday, a representative from a subsidiary of one multi-state dispensary operator, Columbia Care, said the group supports the bill.

Representatives from various state agencies, meanwhile, raised worries about some of the bill’s provisions and encouraged changes to the plan. The Department of Health and Social Services, for example, urged investment in substance use disorder treatment programs and public awareness campaigns about the risks of cannabis use. A Department of Agriculture representative called for outdoor cannabis cultivation to be forbidden, among other changes.

The Department of Finance, meanwhile, said that while the bill addressed some of the department’s past concerns, it would nevertheless create problems for administrators handling tax collection and other transactions, especially because much of the cannabis industry relies on cash.

Osienski said at the beginning of the hearing that he was expecting the agency pushback after Gov. John Carney’s (D) office sent him a list of concerns on Tuesday afternoon. “I want to reassure you that we have met in the past with these agencies,” he said, “and we will continue to meet with them to address these concerns.”

Advocates cheered the decision to advance the bill.

“The House Human Development committee’s approval of HB 305 today is the first step towards bringing equitable legalization to the state this year,” Olivia Naugle, senior policy analyst for Marijuana Policy Project, told Marijuana Moment on Wednesday. “Delaware has the opportunity to join 18 other states and DC that have legalized cannabis for adults—including their neighbor, New Jersey. It is past time for the legislature to listen to their constituents and meet the moment.”

Several modest amendments that were filed when last year’s bill was being considered have been incorporated into the new measure. Those include provisions related to quality control standardization, accreditation for marijuana testing facilities and packaging and labeling requirements.

Portions of the bill on expungements were also removed, as they were made redundant by the enactment of separate legislation last year.

Individual municipalities would be able to establish their own regulations for marijuana business operating times and locations, and they would also be able to ban cannabis companies altogether from their jurisdiction.

As supportive lawmakers work to push the bill through the legislature, they also face the challenge of winning over Carney, one of the rare Democratic governors who remain opposed to legalization.

Despite his wariness about adult-use legalization, Carney did sign two pieces of marijuana expungement legislation in recent years. In 2017 and 2018, a state task force met to discuss issues related to legalization, and the governor hosted a series of roundtable meetings about cannabis.

A legalization bill previously received majority support on the House floor in 2018, but it failed to receive the supermajority needed to pass.

Carney’s predecessor approved a measure to decriminalize simple possession of cannabis in 2015.

An analysis from State Auditor Kathy McGuiness (D) released last year found that Delaware could generate upwards of $43 million annually in revenue from regulating marijuana and imposing a 20 percent excise tax. The legal market could also create more than 1,000 new jobs over five years if the policy is enacted, according to the report.

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