Shortly after Pennsylvania Lt. Governor John Fetterman went on a statewide “listening tour” to hear what Pennsylvanians think about legalizing marijuana, Governor Tom Wolf announced his support for decriminalization. Now, Senate Bill 350 aims to do just that.
Introduced by Democratic state senators Daylin Leach and Sharif Street, Pennsylvania Senate Bill 350 includes measures towards restorative justice for those previously convicted of marijuana-related crimes (such as record expungement), as well as the legalization of marijuana lounges and home delivery services – ingredients not typically found in the recipe for marijuana legalization bills.
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 bill also lays out details for permits to personally grow cannabis. SB350 would allow Pennsylvanians to grow up to 10 plants for personal after acquiring a $50 yearly permit. This marijuana can then be openly shared with friends and family.
“An end to the prohibition of cannabis is overdue,” said Street. “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. 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.”
The permits and requirements to commercially grow and sell marijuana laid out in the bill are also affordable, especially in contrast to the heavily regulated medical marijuana program currently in place. A permit to grow up to 150 plants, and sell to a dispensary, is only $150 a year. The basic license to run a dispensary itself is $5000.
Cosponsors Leach and Street are known in Pennsylvania for their previous marijuana legalization efforts. In 2016, Daylin Leach cosponsored Bill 3 which allowed for the creation of the existing medical marijuana program. In 2017, Sharif Street introduced a full decriminalization bill (which did not pass).
Bill 350 has achieved the endorsement of the Keystone Cannabis Coalition, regional development advocate group All Together Now PA, as well as the vocal support of the cannabis community in Pennsylvania. However, it still needs to pass a vote in the Pennsylvania House and Senate, which seems unlikely given the Republican Party controls both.
Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, speaking on behalf of the House GOP, responded to Gov. Wolf’s declaration of support for decriminalization by saying “We are disappointed and frustrated Gov. Wolf would promote recreational use of a drug classified as a Schedule I narcotic by the federal government.” Cutler went on to indicate that legalizing marijuana is an inappropriate and dangerous thing to do amidst the notable statewide opioid crisis, and that legalizing marijuana would send a “terrible message” to medical marijuana users.
Senator Daylin Leach has opened “Citizen Co-Sponsorship” petition on his website where Pennsylvanians can show support for the bill.
Efforts to decriminalize marijuana often meet hurdles in the form of misinformation, which is in no short supply on this subject. Much pseudoscientific literature has been written in favor of cannabis use, and many outdated misconceptions continue to live on among the resistance. But should the Keystone State become the 12th to achieve recreational legalization, a new high bar would be set for future legalization efforts.
This article was written collaboratively by Matt Murphy and Gene Gruen