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Pennsylvania Governor Says His State Must Legalize Recreational Cannabis

Governor Tom Wolf says the sales will help a distressed state economy.

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In a surprising move, Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania has asked state legislators to legalize recreational marijuana. Governor Wolf says that the tax revenue will support small businesses and fund restorative justice programs.

Marla Aufmuth | Getty Images

Pennsylvania has had medical marijuana since 2016, but Governor Wolf has not been in favor of recreational legalization. In an interview with Pittsburgh’s KDKA 1020, he said:

There are, what, six states that have legalized recreational marijuana in the United States. I don’t think the citizens of Pennsylvania are ready for it, and so the answer I would say is no.

What a difference a year makes. The Pennsylvania economy has been pummeled by the Covid-19 pandemic and now the state is looking for new sources of revenue to turn the tide. One has to look only to the surge in medical marijuana sales to understand that full-on state legalization could be a boon to the economy. 

According to Philly Voice: "In the six-month span between February and August, roughly 100,000 Pennsylvania residents registered for a medical marijuana card. Total sales surged from about $415 million since the start of the program to about $789 million over the past six months of growth."

So what's the problem?

Governor Wolf isn't the only Pennsylvanian in favor or adult-use marijuana. According to a 2017 poll, 56 percent of registered voters would support such legislation, up from 34 percent in 2006.

The governor says the Republican-led state assembly is to blame for the hold up. 

“House and Senate Democrats have been fighting for progress to protect families and businesses in these spaces since the beginning of the pandemic, but they have been stopped at every turn by the Republican majority focused on ignoring the public health crisis,” he said in a statement. “That must stop now."

Kerry Benninghoff, House Majority Leader and a Republican, says that Wolf's proposal is "an unaffordable legislative agenda."

Time will tell, but the gauntlet has been thrown.