A path for Pennsylvania lawmakers to fully legalize marijuana | Pittsburgh City Paper

A path for Pennsylvania lawmakers to fully legalize marijuana

Black state legislators have taken the lead on marijuana legalization.

According to a 2017 poll, 59 percent of Pennsylvanians support legalizing recreational marijuana. Fully legal marijuana could bring significant revenue to Pennsylvania and save money by not charging minor offenses.

But getting to that point in Pennsylvania is tricky. Current high-profile state leaders like Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and Republican state House Speaker Mike Turzai don’t support recreational marijuana.

Chris Goldstein of marijuana advocacy group PhillyNORML says Black state legislators, like Pittsburgh’s Jake Wheatley and Ed Gainey, have taken the lead on marijuana legalization. Growing their caucus could give weed a boost.  

Goldstein also notes that “any real holdup is going to come from Republicans,” who sometimes privately support legalization, but not publicly. 

This means flipping the state House and state Senate, which would require many marijuana-supporting Democrats to win in GOP territory. If that occurs, and Wolf wins re-election, Goldstein believes the governor won’t veto a legalization bill, since his running mate and the Pennsylvania Democratic Party are pro-legalization. 

Champions: State Rep. Jake Wheatley (D-Hill District), recreational-marijuana bill prime sponsor. Lt. Gov. candidate John Fetterman (D-Braddock)

Opponents: House Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Marshall), Gov. Tom Wolf (D-York)

Integral candidates: Jon McCabe (D-Lower Burrell), Emily Skopov (D-Marshall), James Craig (D-Washington), Steven Toprani (D-Monongahela) all support and are running in GOP-held districts.

“Revenue generated from legalizing marijuana, along with the savings that could be realized by unburdening our criminal justice system, deserves a serious conversation … As I have said before, this is an idea whose time has come.” - State Rep. Jake Wheatley   

By the Numbers: $580 million annually to state coffers if marijuana is legalized in Pennsylvania, according to estimates from state Auditor General.