Pennsylvania has seen a flurry of marijuana-related legislative efforts in the past weeks, including a long-awaited bipartisan Senate bill to legalize adult-use cannabis.
The measure, sponsored by Sens. Dan Laughlin (R) and Sharif Street (D), runs at 240 pages and would allow adults 21 and older to possess and buy up to 30 grams of marijuana, 5 grams of concentrates and 500 milligrams of THC. Home cultivation of cannabis for personal use would only be permitted for qualifying medical marijuana patients.
If passed into law, the courts would be required to identify cases eligible for automatic expungement within six months of enactment. These would include low-level cannabis possession and distribution, but not sales.
The state would impose a six percent sales tax on marijuana in addition to a 10 percent excise tax. Counties and municipalities would each receive 10 percent of these revenues, and the remaining 80 percent would go toward a Cannabis Regulation Fund (CRF) established to oversee social equity efforts.
One such social equity initiative would be the Cannabis Business Development Fund, which would receive $3 million from the CRF each year in order to provide low-interest loans and grants to low-income or marginalized applicants looking to start a cannabis business.
The measure would also establish a Cannabis Regulatory Control Board to govern the legal marijuana industry, including Pennsylvania’s medical cannabis program. It would be charged with issuing licenses for cultivating, distributing and testing cannabis.
Provisions of the Senate bill allow for local jurisdictions to determine whether or not to allow on-site cannabis consumption spaces at dispensaries in its locality, but they cannot decide to prohibit marijuana businesses from operating entirely.
The Senate bill is one of several cannabis reform efforts working their way around the Pennsylvania legislature, which mainly differ in approaches to tax, revenue allocation and social equity.
Rep. Amen Brown (D) and Sen. Mike Regan (R) said they will soon file their own bipartisan measure to legalize adult-use cannabis in Pennsylvania, while Reps. Jake Wheatley (D) and Dan Frankel (D) introduced another marijuana legalization bill in early October.
While this activity is encouraging to cannabis reform advocates in Pennsylvania, leaders in the GOP-controlled legislature have been quick to dampen enthusiasm. House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff’s (R) spokesperson told the Inquirer that legalizing cannabis had “no significant support” among House Republicans.
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) is more hopeful of progress, believing the main points of contention with legalization proposals will be how tax revenues are allocated. Gov. Tom Wolf (D), meanwhile, welcomed the bipartisan approach of recent legalization efforts, telling KDKA radio that “the time is right” for the reform.
With New York and New Jersey set to launch legal cannabis sales early next year, the governor urged Republicans to get behind legalization to aid Pennsylvania’s post-pandemic recovery and ensure it doesn’t fall behind its neighbors in establishing a competitive marijuana industry.