Gov. Wolf renews call for legal recreational marijuana – TribLIVE

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Gov. Tom Wolf Thursday renewed his call for legal recreational marijuana, accusing legislators of dragging their feet on the issue.

“In the past year, the Legislature has failed to find time to debate, let alone pass, adult-use cannabis, even though this is an issue that affects thousands of Pennsylvanians through our criminal justice system right now, and it can provide millions of dollars of much-needed revenue,” he said.

Wolf held a news conference with Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and state Sen. Sharif Street to make their case for legal weed.

Taxes on legal marijuana brought in about $390 million in Washington State and more than $300 million in Colorado last year. Pennsylvania has a larger population than those states, and the commonwealth is leaving marijuana money on the table, Wolf said.

“Now, more than ever, especially in the middle of a pandemic, we are in need of the economic boost that cannabis can provide,” he said.

He has ideas about how to spend the money. He said he’s open to other plans but suggested creating grants for “historically disadvantaged businesses” and new “restorative justice” programs to help those punished for marijuana possession.

Wolf and Fetterman first called for marijuana legalization last year.

The House Republican Caucus condemned Wolf for trying to legalize a drug during a epidemic.

“Calling for the legalization of recreational marijuana is another inconsistency and contradiction from this governor who just recently renewed a disaster declaration for a drug overdose crisis that continues to devastate and destroy Pennsylvania’s families,” caucus spokesperson Jason Gottesman said in a statement.

The caucus also accused Wolf of focusing on marijuana instead of reopening the economy after coronavirus-related shutdowns.

State Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman took a softer tone. The Centre County Republican did not dismiss marijuana legalization outright but said it was not a priority likely to be addressed this year.

“We have long maintained that state laws should be changed because they are good policy for the people of Pennsylvania — not because of their potential to generate money,” he said in a statement, adding that he looks forward to hearing more specific details from Wolf about what legalizing marijuana might entail.

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AP

Gov. Tom Wolf renewed on Thursday his call to legalize recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania.

Wolf said he has not had in-depth discussions on the issue with Republican lawmakers.

Several marijuana legalization bills have been introduced in the General Assembly in the last few years but have never been seriously discussed.

Fetterman rejected claims that marijuana contributes to the drug epidemic, saying there has never been a recorded marijuana overdose.

“We have legalized alcohol,” he said. “We have legalized tobacco. We have legalized opioids, and all of these substances have caused hundreds of thousands of death over the years.”

His wife, Giselle Baretto Fetterman, recently discussed her experiences with medical marijuana, which she takes to treat chronic back pain.

Wolf called on lawmakers to create a way for those convicted on marijuana possession charges to have their criminal records expunged.

Street, a Philadelphia Democrat, said Black residents are disproportionately punished by marijuana enforcement compared to their white counterparts.

“It is time to end the prohibition of cannabis in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It is time for Pennsylvanians to enjoy the benefits.”

Wolf urged lawmakers to make the issue a priority.

“I understand that this is going to take time, to get a legal adult-use cannabis program up and running, but there are things the Legislature can do right now, very quickly,” he said.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, jtierney@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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