Two Pennsylvania senators introduced a comprehensive marijuana legalization bill on Tuesday—just weeks after Gov. Tom Wolf (D) announced that he’s in favor of the policy.
Sens. Daylin Leach (D) and Sharif Street (D) filed the legislation, which would allow adults 21 and older to possess, cultivate and purchase cannabis from licensed retailers.
It also contains social justice provisions aimed at promoting equity in the industry, including automatically expunging prior marijuana convictions and providing interest-free loans to low-income individuals who want to participate in the market.
Adults could grow up to 10 cannabis plants for personal use under the bill.
Marijuana deliveries and social use lounges at dispensaries would also be permitted.
“Pennsylvania’s cannabis policy is cruel, irrational and expensive,” Leach, who previously championed the legislation that created state’s medical cannabis law, said in a press release. “Prohibition has destroyed countless lives and has cost taxpayers millions.”
“We need to stop arresting our kids and funding violent drug cartels,” he said. “This is going to be a tough battle, but so was passing medical marijuana. We did that, and we’ll do this too. The stakes are too high for us to fail.”
The bill, first reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer, is designed to limit the influence of large marijuana corporations and empower small businesses to enter the market. It would accomplish that creating licenses for microgrowers who could cultivate up to 150 plants, with permits costing $250 annually. Existing medical cannabis dispensaries could sell recreational products as long as the supply chains are kept separate, and there’d be no cap on the number of retailers. However, no single owner could operate more than three shops.
For large marijuana firms, they’d be limited to 150,000 square feet of outdoor space for cultivation or 60,000 square feet for indoor facilities. Like dispensaries, there isn’t a cap on how many of these facilities could operate, but licenses would be capped at one per owner. There’d be a $100,000 application fee, with renewals costing $10,000 annually.
Unlike a separate legalization bill that was introduced earlier this month, this proposal would not utilize state-run stores to distribute legal marijuana.
“An end to the prohibition of cannabis is overdue,” Street said. “It is time for us to join the emerging cannabis economy with the legalization of the Adult Use of Cannabis in PA, which should not be a crime when responsibly used by adults nor mandate medical oversight.”
“The economic imperatives are too great,” the senator said. “We also have a moral mandate to correct the damage that disparate enforcement of our marijuana laws has done and is still doing to communities across the commonwealth.”
Cannabis retail sales would be taxed at 17.5 percent, which the lawmakers predict will generate $500 million during the first fiscal year of implementation. Revenue would be mostly directed to school districts, which would be able to decide how they spend their shares, whether by hiring additional staff, investing in educational programs or even providing “local tax relief to homeowners in their districts,” according to the lawmakers’ press release.
“We’re fighting to create an adult-use cannabis program where individuals harmed by prohibition and small Pennsylvanian farms and businesses will have the opportunity to not only participate in the industry, but to profit from it,” Leach, who also launched a website where residents can voice support for the bill, said.
Today we formally introduced SB 350, the Adult Use Cannabis bill. If U support it, go to this link https://t.co/V2Ni1m1uZO to B a Citizen Co-Sponsor of the bill, & get updates! We need all of your help to pass this. #Legalizeit #CannabisCommunity #CannabisNews #cannabisindustry
— Daylin Leach (@daylinleach) October 15, 2019
The legislation contains a few other unique provisions, including allowing universities to process cannabis to be used for any courses related to the marijuana industry. (The lawmakers acknowledged many schools will be reluctant to take advantage of that, however, due to concerns about losing federal funds.) It would also require the Department of Agriculture to establish an educational program to instruct people about cannabis entrepreneurship.
All told, the bill is sure to generate excitement among marijuana reform advocates, as it takes into account social justice concerns while ensuring that consumers are put ahead of large cannabis corporations. Home delivery, social use lounges and personal cultivation are also provisions that aren’t always included in other states’ marijuana bills.
Interestingly, the legislation explicitly allows marijuana businesses to utilize any mode of transportation for deliveries, including walking or public transit.
Leach and Street first released details about the bill in March, around the same time that Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D), a vocal proponent of legalization, embarked on a statewide listening tour to hear where constituents stand on the issue.
He and Wolf unveiled their findings from the tour during a press conference in late September, when the governor announced that he’s officially on board with legalization after previously stating that he didn’t feel the state was quite ready for the reform. He said the legislature should “seriously debate” legalization, while pursuing more modest reforms in the meantime.
Despite strong administrative support, the legislation will likely face an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Senate.
Street told the Inquirer that while there currently aren’t any Republican cosponsors, he’s optimistic that the bill will attract GOP members.
“I think the bill will ultimately be enacted and get wide Republican support,” the senator said. “Many of my Republican colleagues tell me that they support the concept, and believe it eventually will be adopted.”
“It’s an economic, political, and moral win for both sides,” Leach said. “It keeps the black-market tamped down, the $500 million generated in cannabis fees would be directed to the schools, it decreases regulation by eliminating the seed-to-sale tracking.”
Marijuana Moment supporters on Patreon can read the full text of the new Pennsylvania bill below:
This piece initially incorrectly reported that the 10 plants allowed for home cultivation would be the most in any state, but Michigan allows for 12 plants.
Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.