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On 4/20, Pennsylvania moves closer to legalizing adult recreational cannabis

On 4/20, Pennsylvania moves closer to legalizing adult recreational cannabis 02:42

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Wednesday is April 20th, which is also known as World Cannabis Day.

It's also a day for some to reignite efforts to legalize cannabis in Pennsylvania.

If you were greeted with a "Happy 4/20" or got an email from politicians like the lieutenant governor, you know Wednesday is all about marijuana.

"4/20 is our high holiday, if you will," Patrick Nightingale, a cannabis attorney and longtime advocate of marijuana legalization, told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Wednesday.

"It dates back to the 1970s when a group of high school students in California who nicknamed themselves the Waldos would meet at 4:20 p.m. after school to enjoy a little bit of mother nature," Nightingale added.

Of course, legally, Pennsylvania only allows medical marijuana.

Six hundred thousand residents have medical marijuana cards, but, adds Nightingale, "Up to 2 million Pennsylvanians who consume cannabis on some type of regular basis, so I would say we are looking at a good 15 percent of our population."

The use is growing.

State Sen. Dan Laughlin, an Erie Republican, has a bill to let medical marijuana users grow their own weed at home because medical marijuana is both expensive and uninsured.

"This would allow patients to grow up to six adult plants at any one time," Laughlin said.

But the big push is for legalizing recreational adult use of cannabis.  State Sen. Mike Regan, a York Republican who chairs the Senate Law and Justice Committee, said after holding many hearings, he's ready to move to the next step to legalization.

"We do have a rough draft completed that's being fine-tuned and tweaked right now. I believe that we are going to have a hearing in May where we will pass this bill out of committee," Regan said.  

"It's going to be a historic moment," Regan added.

Regan said we've learned lessons from the 18 other states with legalized cannabis on how to regulate, tax and safeguard the quality of legal marijuana.

"We want to take the pros and cons from those 18 states, try to craft a bill that's state-of-the-art so Pennsylvania doesn't have to backtrack like many other states have had to do," he said.

Regan said he doesn't know yet whether Senate Republican leaders will allow a floor vote on his bill, but he's hopeful, saying Governor Tom Wolf will sign a legalization bill that gets to him this year.

But there's no guarantee a new governor next year will do the same.  

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