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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf Urges Legislators To Legalize Adult-Use Of Marijuana

TOBYHANNA, Pa. (CBS) -- Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf is urging legislators to legalize the adult-use of marijuana. Pennsylvania officials say the legalization of adult-use cannabis will provide a new revenue stream to direct toward economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling additional funding for grants for small businesses.

Wolf was at The Mountain Center in Tobyhanna Tuesday, discussing the legalization of marijuana's potential benefits.

He is urging the General Assembly to take up legislation regarding marijuana's legalization which they have not done despite multiple requests from Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman this fall.

"This year, I again went to the General Assembly and asked them to make legalizing adult-use cannabis a priority for the fall as we work to find ways to overcome the economic hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic," Wolf said. "To date, there has been no movement to advance legislation. So, I'm here today to ask again, and to focus on two particular benefits of legalization – potential economic growth and much-needed restorative justice."

Wolf, joined by state Rep. Maureen Madden and hemp farmer Eric Titus White, discussed how "legalizing cannabis offers the same potential for economic growth that the historic farm bill of 2018 did for hemp farmer following decades of government prohibition of the industry."

Hemp, a once widespread crop in Pennsylvania, was cultivated in the state for more than 250 years. It was grown for seeds, fibers and extracts.

Hemp and marijuana are two different varieties of the same plant species, but hemp does not contain high levels of THC, which makes marijuana a controlled substance.

"Much of our knowledge about how to grow, process and use hemp was lost after industrial hemp was regulated and banned along with marijuana in the 1930s," Wolf said. "And Pennsylvania lost the benefits of an industry with a long history of providing jobs and resources here in the commonwealth. When hemp and marijuana were banned, we didn't just lose jobs, we lost decades of research opportunities, innovation and economic growth."

White says that his hemp farm helped provide him with economic opportunities and dig roots in his home state.

"The cannabis plant is capable of stimulating our economy, healing our soil, and bringing the focus back to natural medicine and natural farming," White said.

Madden says she supports the Wolf administration's efforts to introduce the legalization of adult recreational cannabis due to its potential to boost the Pennsylvania economy.

"I fully support the administration's efforts to introduce the legalization of adult recreational cannabis in such a way that invests much-needed financial resources in our underserved communities and enacts restorative justice programs throughout the Commonwealth," Madden said.

Aside from the economic growth opportunities that will be created by legalizing adult-use cannabis, criminalization laws have "disproportionately" harmed minority communities in Pennsylvania, officials said.

"Every year in Pennsylvania, another 20,000 people get cannabis-related criminal charges that can keep them from getting the jobs and housing they want," said Fetterman. "It's time we stop ruining people's futures over something that's already legal in several states and something that most Pennsylvanians don't even think should be illegal."

In 2018, Wolf signed the Clean Slate bill which allows for sealing records of certain low-level offenses if the person has been free from convictions for 10 years.

While that law can be applied to certain marijuana-related offenses, Wolf says there is "much more that needs to be done to reverse decades of injustice. And we need to start by decriminalizing cannabis and legalizing it for adult use."

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