Pennsylvania lawmakers have developed three distinct proposals to achieve multiple goals: legalize recreational cannabis, achieve social justice for individuals with minor cannabis convictions, and maximize the economic benefits of a billion-dollar industry. Their innovative plans will meet different needs and goals while paving the way for a more equitable and prosperous future.
In a groundbreaking move, two rounds of joint sponsorship briefs are currently underway in both the House and Senate. The memos, supported by Sen. Marty Flynn of Lackawanna/Lehigh and State Representative David DeLuso of Delaware, propose an ingenious idea — selling marijuana through state-owned liquor stores, with strict age restrictions to ensure possession and only possession. For use by adults 21 years of age or older. Furthermore, the proposals would allow Pennsylvanians to grow and process up to six marijuana plants for personal use, promoting self-sufficiency and personal responsibility.
By mandating that all marijuana sales be conducted through the state system, the Commonwealth would ensure a monopoly on both liquor and cannabis sales while encouraging the use of labor unions. Campaign finance records reveal that both Delloso and Flynn have strong union support, making their proposals a step toward promoting more economic justice and workers’ rights in Pennsylvania.
State Reps. Donna Bullock, D-Philadelphia, and Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, drafted a new memo that takes a different approach to the issue. Sales within the state liquor system. Instead, their proposal focuses on achieving five critical goals: protecting consumers, Promote social justicepromoting economic justice, drug abuse prevention, and income generation.
Frankel and Pollock believed it was time to adopt a new perspective on regulation and taxation of this important agricultural commodity, with the ultimate goal of promoting the health and general welfare of the people of Pennsylvania. The common denominator in the three notes strongly emphasizes the promotion of social justice. Although Frankel and Pollock’s memo provides fewer specific legislative details, the memorandum written by Delloso and Flynn calls for the erasure of minor marijuana-related crimes.
Legalization of cannabis in Pennsylvania
since hemp Legalization for medical purposes In 2018, medical marijuana sales in Pennsylvania reached $6.3 billion as of November. In the 12 months leading up to October, dispensaries alone generated nearly $1.4 billion in sales, according to data provided by the Medical Marijuana Advisory Board. With 423,443 active certified patients, the demand for Medical marijuana appears in Pennsylvania No signs of slowing down.
Farmers and healers in Pennsylvania are subject to a 5% lump-sum receipts tax on their sales to dispensaries. The total expected receipts for the next fiscal year are estimated at 41.8 million dollars, as indicated by the current state budget. Patients are not required to pay sales tax on their medical marijuana purchases.
In 2018, former Auditor General Eugene DiPasquale conducted an analysis that estimated the potential recreational marijuana industry in Pennsylvania at $1.66 billion. Fast forward to the budget hearings in 2021, where Matthew Kneitel, director of Pennsylvania’s Independent Office of Finance, predicted that legalizing recreational marijuana could generate anywhere from $500 million to $700 million in tax revenue for the state.
Although adult use of marijuana is now legal in 21 states, including Pennsylvania’s neighbors like New Jersey, Maryland, and New York, it remains illegal under federal law. At last year’s Senate hearing on legalization, two industry experts estimated that the illegal marijuana trade in Pennsylvania is worth $3 to $4 billion annually. Although the three memos circulated, there was still no official legislative proposal.
The proposed bill specified that the legal age for marijuana use would be 21, specifying various regulations for production, sales, possession, and criminal record expungement. It is worth noting that the bill did not aim to change laws related to disabled driving. However, it has sought to ensure workers are protected by prohibiting their termination based on positive drug tests at non-intoxicating levels. Despite being referred to the House Liquor Control Committee, the bill ultimately stagnated during session.
When the Republican Party had a majority, the prospects for legalization were very limited. However, with Democrats now garnering broader support for the cause, the possibility of pro-marijuana legislation passing the House isn’t entirely remote, though votes aren’t guaranteed. Unfortunately, even if such legislation were to pass in the House, the odds of it passing the Senate remain very slim, given the apparent opposition from Republicans on the matter.
Reformulation of the medical program.
A bipartisan effort by two of the state’s senators aims to implement important changes that would expand the pool of those eligible for a medical marijuana card in Pennsylvania. Currently, the law allows only a limited number of doctors and patients to participate. Doctors must undergo a four-hour course and register in the state before patients are approved. Only individuals who have one of 23 approved conditions are also eligible for a medical marijuana card.
According to State Senators James Brewster (Dr., Allegheny) and Mike Reagan (R., York), elected officials and bureaucratic staff are not best suited to identifying illnesses that warrant the use of medical marijuana. As such, their proposal aims to allow any physician authorized to prescribe controlled substances to have the independence to decide whether a patient may benefit from cannabis use.
The proposal by the two state senators would eliminate the medical marijuana card renewal requirement, which is currently mandated by the state. The annual cost to renew the card is $50, with select financial hardship programs like Medicaid exempt from the fee, per department regulations.
Pennsylvania’s approach to medical and recreational marijuana use continues to evolve, with proposed legislative changes aimed at expanding eligibility for medical marijuana use and legalizing recreational use.
While progress has been made, such as legalizing medical marijuana sales in 2018, the issue remains politically divisive, with Republican lawmakers opposed and concerned about the impact of legalization on public health and safety.
Despite this, there is growing support for changes to existing laws, with experts anticipating significant economic gains if recreational use is legalized. As the debate over legalizing marijuana continues in Pennsylvania, it remains to be seen what the future holds for the state’s approach to cannabis regulation.