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Pennsylvania Lawmakers Build Support For New Marijuana Legalization Bill

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Two Pennsylvania lawmakers are working to build support for a marijuana legalization bill they plan to introduce soon.

In a memo sent to colleagues on Monday, Reps. Jake Wheatley (D) and Dan Frankel (D) said the proposal “will create a legal and regulatory framework structured to control and regulate the cultivation, processing, transportation, distribution, delivery and sale at retail of cannabis and cannabis products.”

This comes as a bipartisan Senate duo is also in the process of crafting legislation to legalize cannabis across the commonwealth. Sens. Dan Laughlin (R) and Sharif Street (D) announced some details of the proposal earlier this year, but the bill has yet to be formally introduced.

Wheatley and Frankel said their upcoming measure will legalize possession and sale of up to one ounce of cannabis for adults 21 and older. It would establish a legislatively appointed Cannabis Regulatory Control body to oversee the market.

“Our legislative proposal would lay the foundation for enhancing social and economic equity for individuals and communities that have been and continue to be adversely impacted by the criminalization of marijuana and the aggressive enforcement of simple marijuana possession laws in marginalized communities,” the memo states. “The proposal would provide for direct participation in the cannabis industry by individuals who live in these communities and by small diverse and disadvantaged businesses.”

The Department of Agriculture would be directed to “provide for participation by disadvantaged farmer-owned small businesses.”

Marijuana sales would be taxed at 13 percent at the retail level. Individual municipalities would be able to impose an additional retail tax of up to two percent. There would also be a seven percent cultivator and processor privilege tax and a separate one percent or two percent tax on the sale or transfer of cannabis products from a cultivator or processor to a retailer.

“Although the Commonwealth would reap significant revenue from the legalization of cannabis for adult use, a primary objective of our proposal is to keep cannabis out of the hands of children and profits out of the hands of criminals and criminal enterprises,” the lawmakers wrote.

Separately, two bills to decriminalize cannabis alone were introduced in the GOP-controlled House and Senate in January, but they’ve yet to receive hearings in the committees to which they were referred.

Outside the legislature, Gov. Tom Wolf (D) said earlier this year that marijuana legalization was a priority as he negotiated the annual budget with lawmakers. However, his formal spending request didn’t contain legislative language to actually accomplish the cannabis policy change.

The governor has repeatedly called for legalization and pressured the Republican-controlled legislature to pursue the reform since coming out in favor of the policy in 2019. Shortly after he did that, a lawmaker filed a separate bill to legalize marijuana through a state-run model. A new version of that proposal was refiled in the current legislative session.

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D), who is running for 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. The lieutenant governor even festooned his Capitol office with marijuana-themed decor in contravention of a state law passed by the GOP-led legislature.

Fetterman has also been actively involved in encouraging the governor to exercise his clemency power for cannabis cases while the legislature moves to advance reform.

Last month, Wolf pardoned a doctor who was arrested, prosecuted and jailed for growing marijuana that he used to provide relief for his dying wife. That marks his 96th pardon for people with cannabis convictions through the Expedited Review Program for Non-Violent Marijuana-Related Offenses that’s being run by the Board of Pardons.

Overall, legalization is popular among Pennsylvania voters, with 58 percent of residents saying they favor ending cannabis prohibition in a survey released in April.

Another poll released last month found that a majority of voters in the state also support decriminalizing all currently illicit drugs.

Connecticut Governor Will Sign Marijuana Legalization Bill Tuesday, But Concedes There’s Still Work To Be Done

Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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