HARRISBURG (KDKA) - Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman are calling on the General Assembly to legalize recreational marijuana.
While the pandemic burns the business sector in the Keystone State, the Democratic leaders believe legalizing recreational marijuana would provide an economic boost. Gov. Wolf says states where marijuana is legal have received "millions" in revenue.
"In Washington state, adult-use cannabis brought in $319 million in tax revenue in 2018," said Gov. Tom Wolf. "In Colorado, that figure topped $266 million, and provided the city of Aurora with $900,000 to open a space for people experiencing homelessness. And these figures don't count the secondary economic benefits of new businesses opening."
With the legalization of recreational marijuana also comes criminal justice reform, Gov. Wolf said.
"We need to work quickly, especially when it comes to things like restorative justice. I'm also asking the General Assembly to pursue criminal justice reform policies that restore justice for people convicted of cannabis-related offenses," said the governor.
He said legalizing cannabis would help tackle criminal justice issues, generate hundreds of millions in revenue and create tens of thousands of jobs.
Democratic leaders believe Pennsylvania is missing out on a lifeline and blame Republican lawmakers for moving too slow.
"The legislature has failed to find time to debate, let alone pass, adult-use cannabis," said Wolf.
He says this will help Pennsylvanians get back into the work force.
"It has been nearly a year since Governor Wolf and I urged the legislature to act on immediate decriminalization and start the discussion about legalization," Lt. Governor Fetterman said. "Now more than ever, we must stop prosecuting people for doing something that most Pennsylvanians don't even think should be illegal."
As the press conference started Thursday afternoon, Pennsylvania House Republican Caucus Spokesperson Jason Gottesman sent out a statement in response to Gov. Wolf and Lt. Gov. Fetterman's calls:
"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.
"In addition, Pennsylvanians are still struggling to survive and provide for their families amid the governor's unilateral and overbroad economic shutdown orders. Instead of legalizing drugs as a way to tax and spend on new government programs, the governor should work with the General Assembly to help get Pennsylvanians safely back to work, get our children get the best educational opportunities, and provide the return to normalcy Pennsylvanians long for."
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman says they're inviting Republicans to discuss legalization, saying "a small minority" of Pennsylvanians oppose the idea.
"We know we're right. We're inviting the Republicans to the table to say 'we need the revenue, we need the jobs, we need the freedom, and we need the criminal justice reform.' And we can all be a part of making Pennsylvania better and taking this step forward."
Democrats want Republicans to act now.
"I would challenge anybody: come up with a solution that could deliver hundreds of millions of dollars," said Lt. Gov. Fetterman.
But Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman announced not to expect action this fall.
"Like with any issue, a bill would need to work its way through the Senate committee process to be vetted. Movement on this issue should not be expected his fall," he said.
Governor Wolf told reporters he has had zero negotiations with the other side.
Meanwhile, Corman said he looks forward to learning more about the governor's plans to sell, regulate, and enforce the drug.
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