HARRISBURG – March 18, 2019 – State Senator Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery/Delaware) and State Senator Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia) today announced legislation that would end Pennsylvania’s prohibition of cannabis and would ultimately legalize cannabis for adult-use in Pennsylvania. 

“We’ve had a cruel, irrational and expensive policy on cannabis for more than 80 years,” Leach said. “Prohibition has destroyed countless lives and has cost our taxpayers millions of dollars. It’s time we walk into the bright sunshine of enlightenment and stop arresting our kids and funding violent drug cartels. This will be a tough battle, but so was passing medical marijuana. We did that, and we will do this. The stakes are too high for us to fail.”

“An end to the prohibition of cannabis is overdue,” Street said. “It is time for us to join the emerging cannabis economy with the legalization of the Adult Use of Cannabis in PA., which should not be a crime when responsibly used by adults nor mandate medical oversight. The economic imperatives are too great. We also have a moral mandate to correct the damage that disparate enforcement of our Marijuana Laws has done and is still doing to communities across the commonwealth.” 

Leach and Street’s legislation will end the destruction caused by cannabis prohibition and will establish a rational and fair protocol for the legal sale, consumption, taxation and regulation of cannabis.

Leach and Street today circulated their proposal to Senate colleagues in the form of a memo. For the next few weeks, all Senators will be able to co-sponsor their proposal if they wish. Once the co-sponsorship process is complete, Leach and Street will introduce the policy’s language, at which time the proposal will be numbered and assigned to a Senate committee for consideration.

“Over the last year and a half, Senator Street and I have met with hundreds of Pennsylvanians, and dozens of advocates, experts and stakeholders who have spent countless hours fighting and studying prohibition,” Leach said. “I’ve attended more than 20 conferences around the country on the topic and Sen. Street even hosted his own conference on the issue late last year where the focus was on minority participation in the new industry. We’ve used all of that input, and the data collected from all the other states already doing this, to create legislation that we’re confident can pass the Senate and will create an efficient new industry that is good for all Pennsylvanians.”  

Key points on the bill:

  • Establishes a tiered system of licenses for growers with lower barriers to entry in order to allow those with more limited resources to enter the cannabis industry as entrepreneurs.
  • Provides for automatic expungement of previous criminal convictions of cannabis-related offenses, including possession, and delivery of less than an ounce, as well as commutations of sentences resulting from such convictions.
  • The majority of tax revenue will be used for public education, with individual school districts choosing what portion of revenue to dedicate to the new funding formula, and what portion to property tax relief.
  • Consumption of cannabis will be permitted only by adults over 21 years of age.
  • Home delivery of cannabis will be permitted.
  • Individuals will be permitted to grow up to six plants for personal consumption, but may not sell those plants.

*Additional details about the bill can be found here.

“Cannabis prohibition was built on lies and racism and has resulted in literally hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians suffering criminal convictions merely because they chose a plant instead of an alcoholic beverage,” Pittsburgh NORML Executive Director Patrick Nightingale said. “Adult-use reform will save almost 20,000 Pennsylvanians from arrest and prosecution annually. Reform will also help affected Pennsylvanians expunge cannabis-related offenses from their record.”

“We’re fighting to create an adult-use cannabis program where individuals harmed by prohibition and small Pennsylvanian farms and businesses will have the opportunity to not only participate in the industry, but to profit from it,” Leach said.  

“We are confident that an open and honest conversation about the risks and rewards of adult-use reform will help those critical of legalization to understand that it can be done responsibly and in a manner that protects our youth and our motorists,” Nightingale said.

The federal “Marijuana Tax Act”, passed 82 years ago, prohibits the use of cannabis for recreational purposes nationwide. However, we have seen states legalize it’s use through constitutional referendums and through some legislatures. Here in Pennsylvania, prohibition results in over 25,000 Pennsylvanians, disproportionately people of color, being put into the criminal justice system per year. It costs the state more than a half-billion dollars per year to arrest, prosecute, incarcerate and monitor people arrested for cannabis-related offenses. And this does not count the cost of lost labor and educational opportunities.

Prohibition is a major contributor to the discriminatory nature of our criminal justice system as members of minority communities are arrested for cannabis-related offenses at four times the rate of Caucasians, despite use rates being identical.

Nearly 60 percent of Pennsylvanians support ending prohibition. Ten States and Washington DC have now legalized cannabis for adult use and 33 states have legalized medical cannabis, including Pennsylvania.

In 2017 Leach introduced Senate Bill 213, a bill to legalize cannabis for adult use in Pennsylvania. Senate Bill 3, Leach’s bill to legalize medical marijuana, was signed into law as Act 16 of 2016. The first Pennsylvanian legally purchased medical cannabis from a dispensary in February 2018.

Street introduced Senate Bill 1265 in 2017, a bill for the decriminalization of cannabis in Pennsylvania. He also introduced Senate Resolution 421, a resolution urging the United States Congress to pass a 2018 Farm Bill that includes the Hemp Farming Act of 2018 and calling on the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to conduct a study of industrial hemp research pilot programs and prepare recommended draft statutory and regulatory language.