(The Center Square) – Gov. Tom Wolf is calling on Pennsylvania lawmakers to legalize adult-use cannabis, saying it could help the state recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, but at least one expert argues it won’t help fix the state’s budget woes.
The governor reiterated his previous calls for action on cannabis legalization, arguing it will result in “potential economic growth and much-needed restorative justice.”
Legalizing cannabis for adults could match the benefits that the farm bill of 2018 had on hemp farming, Wolf said during a recent news conference. Farmers cultivated hemp across the Keystone State for more than two centuries, growing it for seeds, fibers and extracts, but it was banned in the 1930s, the governor added.
“Marijuana criminalization laws have disproportionately harmed many people in Pennsylvania, contributing to especially severe economic trauma and harm in historically disadvantaged communities,” Wolf said. “We’ve begun to reverse the damage of those losses now. My administration has made changes in both how hemp and marijuana are treated in the commonwealth and how we treat criminal justice.”
However, Nathan Benefield, vice president and COO of the Commonwealth Foundation, said the approach wouldn’t help the state’s budget and that the governor should focus his efforts elsewhere.
“Governor Wolf once again ‘calling on the legislature’ to enact his wish list – while refusing to actually call legislators – shows his lack of seriousness,” Benefield said.
“Marijuana taxes wouldn’t put a dent in filling the state’s $5 billion budget hole, and Wolf has offered no path forward on doing so,” Benefield added. “In the midst of the pandemic, Gov. Wolf should be laying out an agenda for supporting families’ educational needs, ensuring access to health care, and getting people back to work.”
To make his case for legalization, Wolf cited a listening tour Lt. Gov. John Fetterman took that he says revealed most residents favor legalizing cannabis.
“There’s much more that needs to be done to reverse the decades of injustice, and we need to start by decriminalizing cannabis and legalizing it for adult use,” Wolf said. “The majority of Pennsylvanians support legalizing cannabis for adult use, and it’s a needed step toward restorative justice.
“It would provide the economic benefits during a time of great economic strain; all these things are good, positive steps for Pennsylvania,” the governor added. “Legalizing cannabis will open up another untapped industry in Pennsylvania, one with the potential to bring in millions – actually billions – of dollars of revenue as we’ve seen in other states.”