As multiple Pennsylvania lawmakers introduce bills to legalize marijuana, support for the reform is at a record high, according to a new poll.
The survey from Franklin & Marshall College found that 60 percent of Pennsylvania voters back adult-use legalization. That’s the highest level of support for the issue since the firm started polling people about it in 2006.
Back then, just 22 percent of voters said they favor legalizing cannabis. Support has nearly tripled in the years since.
Interesting, for this latest survey released on Thursday, the word “recreational” was added to the question for the first time. One might assume that including a word that carries some stigma would result in lower support, but it actually increased by one percentage point since the previous poll was conducted in March. That said, opposition also ticked up two percentage points while those saying they don’t know how the feel about the issue dropped by the same margin.
The poll, which involved interview with 522 registered voters and was conducted d October 18-24, comes as legislators ramp up efforts to get legalization enacted in the state.
Earlier this month, a much-anticipated bipartisan Senate bill to end prohibition in Pennsylvania that has been months in the making was formally introduced.
Sens. Dan Laughlin (R) and Sharif Street (D) unveiled the nearly 240-page legislation months after first outlining some key details back in February.
Also this month, Rep. Amen Brown (D) announced his intent to file a reform bill that he’ll be working on with Sen. Mike Regan (R), who recently expressed his support for the policy change.
A separate pair of state lawmakers—Reps. Jake Wheatley (D) and Dan Frankel (D)— also formally unveiled a legalization bill they’re proposing.
While each measure generally seeks and end to marijuana criminalization by creating a regulated, commercial model for cannabis, there are some provisions that make each piece of legislation unique. For example, the proposals vary in how they would approach taxes, revenue and social equity.
Marijuana Moment is already tracking more than 1,200 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.
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While these recent moves to enact reform in the GOP-controlled legislature are encouraging to advocates, a spokesperson for House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R) tempered expectations this month, telling The Philadelphia Inquirer that there’s “no significant support for the legalization of recreational marijuana in the House Republican caucus.”
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D), who is running for U.S. Senate, told Marijuana Moment in a recent phone interview that he’s optimistic about the prospects of reform with these latest proposals, though he acknowledged that there may be disputes between legislators over how tax revenue should be distributed.
Gov. Tom Wolf (D), for his part, said that a bipartisan approach to legalization “would be a great thing. I think the time is right.”
Meanwhile, the Philadelphia City Council has placed a referendum on the local November ballot urging the state to enact legalization. The hope is that the local vote could further motivate the legislature to move ahead with legalization.
While broad cannabis legalization proposals have not moved forward in the Republican-led legislature, Pennsylvania senators heard testimony last month on a bill to protect medical marijuana patients from being prosecuted under the state’s “zero tolerance” DUI laws.
Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R) first introduced an earlier version of the bill in June 2020. She said at the time that the state needs to “ensure that the legal use of this medicine does not give rise to a criminal conviction.”
Months after the standalone reform legislation was introduced, the Pennsylvania House approved a separate amendment that would enact the policy change.
Separately this month, a bipartisan coalition of Pennsylvania lawmakers introduced a bill that’s meant to promote research into the therapeutic potential of psilocybin mushrooms for mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Outside the legislature, Wolf 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.
Wolf, who signed a medical cannabis expansion bill in June, 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.
In May, Wolf pardoned a doctor who was arrested, prosecuted and jailed for growing marijuana that he used to provide relief for his dying wife. That marked 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.