A ballot measure calling for state leaders to decriminalize marijuana in Pennsylvania garnered strong support from Philadelphia voters Tuesday, securing more than 72 percent of the vote cast in a citywide election.
Philadelphia Question #1 amends the Philadelphia Charter of Homes to call on the Governor and General Assembly of Pennsylvania “to pass legislation that would decriminalize, regulate, and tax the use and sale of cannabis to adults age 21 or older, for non-medical purposes.” The measure in itself does not change state law or significantly affect residents of Philadelphia, which decriminalized possession of small amounts of cannabis seven years ago.
A ‘loud message’ for state lawmakers
As of early Wednesday afternoon local time, the first question had received more than 129,000 votes, or 72.73 percent of the votes cast, with more than 96 percent of constituencies with results.
Democratic State of Pennsylvania Deputy Governor John Fetterman, who is currently running for the US Senate, and was outspoken supporter From Cannabis Policy Reform, he visited all 67 state counties in 2019 for town hall meetings to explore issues related to the legalization of adult cannabis use. He believes it is time for state lawmakers to heed persistent calls to legalize marijuana, including those voiced by Philadelphia voters in this week’s election.
“Philly sent a clear and loud message about legal cannabis, and so did Pennsylvania,” Fetterman wrote in a text message. “It aligns perfectly with the first Republican-sponsored bill to legalize weed in the history of the Palestinian Authority,” referring to bipartisan proposal Democratic Senator Sheriff Street in Philadelphia and Republican Senator Dan Laughlin of Erie.
To borrow their phrases, Fettermann added, “the inescapable.”
Possession decriminalized in Philly in 2014
Pennsylvania lawmakers legalized the use and sale of medical marijuana in 2016, but recreational cannabis remains illegal in the state. Under a decriminalization measure passed in Philadelphia in 2014, those who possess less than 30 grams of cannabis are only subject to fines rather than face criminal charges.
It’s great to see his city taking steps to decriminalize cannabis, says Philadelphia-based Damian Jordan, CEO of Phynally, a national employment search engine that features jobs that don’t require drug tests for marijuana.
“The criminalization of marijuana and the stigmas behind it have marginalized many people for a long time,” Jordan wrote in an email. “Obviously Philly and her leaders want change and I think people do too. Cannabis is the future and over time, I think history will reflect that we are heading in the right direction.”
A bill for adult use is pending
In addition to the Adult Cannabis Act sponsored by Street and Laughlin, Another measure State Democrats Jake Wheatley and Dan Frankel, House of Representatives Bill 2050, would also remove the ban on recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania. However, both proposals have so far failed to make progress in the state legislature. Brian Vicente, co-founder of national law firm Vicente Sederberg LLP, believes approval of Question 1 puts additional pressure on state lawmakers to make progress on marijuana policy reform.
“The vote in Philadelphia reflects the growing feeling across Pennsylvania and across the country that it is time to end the failed policy of banning cannabis and establish a regulated market for adult consumers,” Vicente said. “It should add to the momentum that has been building up in the legislature, as support is growing among Republicans and Democrats alike.”
The approval for the first question, though overwhelming, came in light of low voter turnout in this week’s out-of-year elections. Patrick Christmas, director of policy at the nonprofit City Seventy’s Government Oversight Committee, Tell Axios Philadelphia That Tuesday was “one of the quietest elections we’ve had in a long time.”
“The main driver of turnout anywhere will be a competitive election, and we didn’t have that in Philadelphia today,” Christmas added.