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Two In Three Pennsylvania Voters Support Marijuana Legalization, New Poll Shows Amid Key Political Races

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Two in three Pennsylvania voters say they support marijuana legalization, according to a new poll that was released as cannabis and drug policy issues are being raised in key races for governor and the U.S. Senate in the state.

The CBS News survey found that 66 percent of Pennsylvanians back adult-use legalization—an eight percentage point increase since voters were last asked about the reform proposal in April 2021. Just 34 percent remains opposed to legalization according to the latest poll.

That should be welcome news for pro-reform office seekers in the Keystone State, like Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) who is running for a U.S. Senate seat and has faced attacks from Republican opponent Mehmet Oz over his support for legalization and harm reduction policies.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro is also campaigning on a legalization platform as the Democratic gubernatorial nominee competing against vociferously anti-cannabis state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R).

Polling shows that both Fetterman and Shapiro have leads over their rivals.

The crosstabs of the new CBS survey aren’t available yet, so it’s currently unclear how support is split up among different partisan affiliations, age groups and other demographics. But with overall support at 66 percent, it’s likely that the issue is seeing increased bipartisan agreement on reform, as has been the trend in states across the U.S. in recent years.

The poll—which involved interviews with registered voters from September 6-12 with a +/-3.8 percentage point margin of error—could also send a stronger message to the legislature, where legalization bills have been filed and discussed in hearings in recent sessions but have yet to be enacted.

In March, a Pennsylvania Senate committee held the last of three scheduled hearings on marijuana legalization, taking testimony meant to help inform a reform bill that the panel’s chairman said he was actively drafting.

Sen. Mike Regan (R), who chairs the committee, circulated a cosponsorship memo last year along with Rep. Amen Brown (D) to build support for the policy change.

Sens. Dan Laughlin (R) and Sharif Street (D) separately filed a legalization bill last year, as did Reps. Jake Wheatley (D) and Dan Frankel (D). But neither cleared the legislature by the end of the session.

Outgoing Gov. Tom Wolf (D) who signed a medical cannabis expansion bill last year, 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.

His second-in-command, Fetterman, has taken some credit for Wolf’s evolution on the issue. A longstanding reform advocate, the lieutenant governor led a statewide listening tour in 2019 to hear what residents had to say about the policy proposal. He touted his role in that tour on his Senate campaign website.

Despite the popularity of legalization, however, Fetterman’s opposition has tried to seize on his support for legalization as a vulnerability.

That’s in spite of the fact that, in 2020, Oz himself called marijuana “one of the most underused tools in America” and said that the country should “completely change our policy on marijuana.”

Critics, including far-right provocateur Ann Coulter and former U.S. House Speaker New Gingrich, have also taken issue with a cannabis-themed flag that the lieutenant governor hung over his office balcony in Harrisburg. (Coulter falsely suggested that Fetterman deleted a tweet showing him holding the flag in a recent blog post.)

Meanwhile, Wolf recently launched a month-long marijuana pardon project for September to expedite relief for people with low-level cannabis convictions on their records.

Wolf and Fetterman said that thousands of Pennsylvanians will be eligible for relief through the PA Marijuana Pardon Project, which will be facilitated by the state Board of Pardons, which the lieutenant governor chairs.

Last year, 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 an ongoing Expedited Review Program for Non-Violent Marijuana-Related Offenses.

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Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.

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