Marijuana legalization for recreational use has happened in 18 states and the District of Columbia, and Gov. Tom Wolf wants Pennsylvania to be the 19th.
“Pennsylvania is ready and waiting for legalized marijuana. Let’s get it done,” he tweeted on Tuesday, one week ahead of the Law & Justice Committee’s scheduled public hearing on Monday.
The second-term Democrat’s desire is up against several factors for it to happen before his successor is chosen in November.
Change in attitudes, competing bills and DUI Issues
One is the speed at which the General Assembly would have to move to get it done. In fact, the General Assembly has competing bills to legalize marijuana, and in different ways.
Another problem is cultural attitudes toward the drug are changing, but support in the legislature trails public support. Other legal issues, such as DUI charges and squaring state law with federal treatment of marijuana and its profits, remain.
Currently, Pennsylvania has a comprehensive medical cannabis program like 18 other states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Realistically, Pennsylvania is a few years away from legalizing recreational marijuana, said Sen. Daniel Laughlin, R-Erie. Laughlin introduced SB 473 with Sen. Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia, that would allow for recreational marijuana use for adults 21 years and older, allow individuals to grow it for personal use, and set up a regulatory system for dispensaries.
Concerns over Federal Status
With the federal government still classifying marijuana as a Schedule I substance, the commonwealth keeps any marijuana-related revenue in a separate fund from its General Fund in case the money could ever be frozen. Banks, too, are skittish about holding marijuana-related revenue due to possible federal complications.
Second Amendment Issue
Second Amendment issues and DUI-related issues must be worked out as well, Laughlin noted. While a Pennsylvania resident with a valid medical marijuana card can possess marijuana, possession remains a violation of federal law, the Pennsylvania State Police notes. Thus, anyone with a medical marijuana card is prohibited from obtaining a Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearm. If recreational marijuana is legalized, those problems remain.