Wolf, Fetterman call for legalization of marijuana
Citing the results of Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s 67-county listening tour on marijuana legalization, Gov. Tom Wolf on Wednesday called on Pennsylvania lawmakers to begin working toward the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of the drug.
Wolf said 44,407 Pennsylvanians weighed in on the issues either at town halls or online and the results were overwhelmingly in favor of decriminalization.
Fetterman said while some opposed the full legalization of recreational marijuana, participants at town hall meetings were uniformly civil.
“First, Pennsylvanians were almost to the point of unanimous support that they don’t think your life should be damaged by the possession of a small amount of marijuana. Decriminalization is not controversial,” Fetterman said.
He urged people with convictions for the possession of small amounts of marijuana to apply for a pardon, adding that the state board of pardons, which he chairs, has waived the application fee and is working on a process to aggregate and expedite pardons for such convictions.
“As part of the bipartisan interest in criminal justice reform, we can do that pretty quickly. … We’re ready to do that until we pass legislation that creates mass expungements,” Fetterman said.
Wolf and Fetterman said they would work with lawmakers first to come up with measures to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana and then move toward legalization of recreational cannabis for adults.
They suggested such moves would allow law enforcement to focus on more serious issues and could create a new revenue stream for the state. Auditor General Eugene DePasquale estimated that legalizing recreational marijuana could open up a $1.6 billion market in Pennsylvania and bring in as much as $581 million in new state revenue.
Medical marijuana sales have been brisk since dispensaries opened in February 2018. State officials said sales totaled $130 million during the first full year it was available to medical card holders.
While they conceded Fetterman’s listening tour was not a scientific survey, the two said the results reflect public sentiment.
“This is a majority view now,” Fetterman said.
“This is one of the things I have heard could enjoy broad bipartisan support. There are examples of those who support this on both sides of the aisle,” Wolf said. “In the past, I’ve said I don’t know if Pennsylvania is ready for this. But I believe on the basis of what the lieutenant governor did that Pennsylvania is ready for this.”
Fetterman pointed to Pennsylvania’s successful medical marijuana statute. Pennsylvania is among 33 states that have legalized medical marijuana. Another 11 states have legalized adult recreational marijuana.
“Pennsylvania knocked it out of the park on medical marijuana, and that train was driven in part by Republicans,” he said.
Fetterman added that with New Jersey and New York both moving to decriminalize marijuana, the state could soon be awash in legal cannabis from its neighboring states.
Deb Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Deb at 724-850-1209, [email protected] or via Twitter .