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Pennsylvania Marijuana Legalization Updates for 2021

Oct, 2021
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Adult-use marijuana legalization is coming to Pennsylvania; it may take some time, but, going by the signs, Pennsylvania marijuana legalization appears to have strong support among lawmakers and state residents alike. 

Is marijuana legal in Pennsylvania? Medical marijuana was legalized in Pennsylvania on April 17, 2016, when the governor signed the state’s compassionate medical cannabis legislation into law. The law went into operation in May 2016, and in April 2018, patients could walk into the dispensaries with their MMJ card and get medical marijuana.

At the time, it was groundbreaking and unprecedented, but that was five years ago. Pennsylvanians now want more than just medical marijuana; they want full-scale legalization. Going by what’s happening in the House, it’s only a matter of time before the people get what they want. 

As it is, more than 60% of Pennsylvanians support adult-use marijuana legalization. Democrats Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman have made no secret of their support for recreational adult-use legalization.

Pennsylvania Marijuana Legalization; pot leaf with PA flag

Path to Pennsylvania Marijuana Legalization

Medical marijuana legalization is often the first step towards full legalization. Since 2016, when the state signed Pennsylvania medical marijuana laws, there have been amendments to the legislation intended to loosen restrictions around medical marijuana. 

Legislation To Improve Medical Marijuana Bill Is Passed

The Pennsylvania Department of Health made recommendations to revise the state’s Medical Marijuana Act. On June 30, 2021, Governor Wolf signed P.L. 210. The bill Rep. Paul Schemel (R-Franklin) sponsored made several improvements to Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis program, highlighting the following provisions:

  • Allows patients to purchase three times as much cannabis as they previously could,
  • Narrows the restriction on people with past drug convictions working in or owning medical cannabis businesses.
  • Protects patient safety standards and the product quality of Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program 
  • Empowers the Medical Marijuana Advisory Board to continue to consider new medical conditions for eligibility.

LEARN MORE: Everything You Need to Know About Pennsylvania's Medical Cannabis Program

Pending Bipartisan Legislation

In the House of Representatives, there is a bipartisan bill seeking Pennsylvania marijuana legalization. Usually, the Democrats have led the push for legalization, but, for the first time ever, both sides of the political divide are coming together to speak with one voice in favor of marijuana legalization. 

Republican support will significantly benefit the legalization effort because they control the state House and Senate. The bill is sponsored by Senator Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) and State Senator Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia). According to Senator Laughlin’s website, The bill “establishes rational and fair protocols for the legal sale, regulation, consumption, and taxation of cannabis while prioritizing safety, patients, community reinvestment, social and economic equity, and agriculture.”

Adult-use marijuana is legal in 18 states, including two that border Pennsylvania – New Jersey and New York. Senator Laughlin said, “The sky didn’t fall in any of those states, and I think the overall shift in American society is what we have on our side right now,”

“After almost a year of working with Senator Street, advocacy groups, and constituents, we have introduced SB 473, which we believe is the best option to legalize recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania. Through bipartisan support, Senator Street and I believe that we have found a way to get this important legislation to the finish line. With most surrounding states passing legalization bills, it’s time to act now before we lose revenue due to border bleed.”

While the increase in revenue could raise around a billion dollars a year, the most important thing to me is that the industry will create thousands of family-sustaining jobs that we so desperately need,” said Senator Laughlin.

While he is optimistic about Pennsylvania marijuana legalization, Senator Laughlin believes there’s still a lot to do to push it through to the end.

Primary Objectives of The Legislation

  • Establish a rational and fair protocol for the safe and legal use, cultivation, and sale of cannabis.
  • Develop a new and profitable industry subject to regulation and taxation 
  • Mitigate the damage of prohibition by helping those with drug-related sentences get out of prison and erase their criminal records. 
  • Open up the cannabis industry to those affected by the war on drugs.
  • Align criminal, employment, DUI, and gun laws with cannabis legalization.
  • Modernize the Medical Marijuana Program to reduce costs to patients and increase patient access.

Former Opponent Turns Supporter

Five years ago, Senator Mike Regan (R-York, Cumberland) strongly opposed recreational marijuana. Today, the former US Marshal who used to chase down drug dealers is singing a different tune. He now believes Pennsylvania should legalize, regulate and tax marijuana instead of leaving it to neighboring states and illegal dealers. He said: 

“Our dollars will go to fix the road and bridges of New York and New Jersey. Does that make sense? And who wins are the guys who cut people’s heads off and hang people off bridges, the cartels, and organized crime gangs. It’s a billion-dollar industry. I say let’s take the billion dollars and put it to work in Pennsylvania.” 

Republican lawmakers traditionally oppose legalization, but Senator Reagan has pledged to win them over. “They want consensus, so my job is to go around and build consensus among members,” Sen. Regan said.

In what could be described as a strong statement of intent, Reagan circulated a co-sponsorship memorandum signaling his intention to introduce a bill advocating Pennsylvania marijuana legalization. Reagan, who helped write Pennsylvania medical marijuana laws in 2016 while he was a member of the House of Representatives, explains: “I want to build off the success of that program while ensuring its continued viability for the industry and its patients. I also want to make sure that Pennsylvanians receive their fair share from the sale of adult-use marijuana, not the cartels and gangs whose profits are comparable to Fortune 500 companies.” 

Reagan’s yet-to-be-filed bill has the following objectives: 

  • Legalize adult-use for those ages 21 and over.
  • Establish a new regulatory control board
  • Remove penalties for the use and possession of marijuana by adults.
  • Develop education and deterrents for underage use and possession.

Potential Benefits Of Legalization

Pennsylvania marijuana legalization holds many benefits; the most significant gains are social and economic.

  • Social Benefits: The demand for marijuana is there. When the legal supply does not meet it, it becomes easy for shady characters and unscrupulous drug lords to fill that demand and overrun the market. Criminal gangs and cabals will lose power when users can walk into licensed stores and legally purchase marijuana. Senator Reagan has rightly noted that the state, not criminal gangs or neighboring states, should profit from Pennsylvania’s marijuana demand.

Legalization will strip the social stigma from selling and consuming marijuana; thus, it will no longer be viewed as a social vice.

Also, legalization will go a long way in repairing the damage done by the war on drugs. The state will release prisoners, expunge their records, and allow them to participate in the growing marijuana industry. 

  • Economic Benefits: Tax dollars, lots of it. The Pennsylvania Independent Fiscal Office says legalization would generate between $400 million to $1 billion of new tax revenue for the state annually. 

So, is marijuana legal in Pennsylvania? Not yet, but the signs are promising. 

LEARN MORE: Will Federal Marijuana Laws Ever Progress?

Get It Right With Elevate Holistics

Adult-use marijuana is still illegal in Pennsylvania, and medical marijuana isn’t super straightforward due to regulations. But not to worry: Elevate Holistics can help! 

We’ve made it our business to be the go-to source for reliable information and aid when it comes to everything marijuana. We are ready to answer your inquiries, help you get your Pennsylvania MMJ card, or link you with licensed dispensaries. With Elevate Holistics, you can’t go wrong. Simply book an appointment below to get started.