Harrisburg, PA − October 12, 2021 − State Senator Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) and State Senator Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia) introduced bipartisan legislation this week to legalize the adult use of marijuana in Pennsylvania.
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.
Senator Street described the end of cannabis prohibition as “An issue whose time has come,” calling it “an expensive failure of public policy which has criminalized patients, personal freedoms and impacted generations in a failed war on drugs that continues to burden taxpayers with growing costs to our criminal justice system. This bill makes both moral and fiscal sense and prioritizes the people of Pennsylvania.”
More than 60% of Pennsylvanians support adult-use marijuana legalization. The Pennsylvania Independent Fiscal Office says legalization would generate between $400 million to $1 billion of new tax revenue for the Commonwealth annually. The existing prohibition of cannabis continues to negatively impact Pennsylvanians at growing rates. Just last year the Pennsylvania State Police reported more than 20,000 adults arrested for marijuana-related violations in the Commonwealth, an increase from 2019.
“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 bi-partisan support, Senator Street and I believe that we have found a way to get this important legislation to the finish line. With most of the 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.
Laughlin and Street are proud to have drafted this bill with extensive feedback from advocates and stakeholders across the Commonwealth and are committed to working with them to improve the bill as it progresses through the legislative process.
Primary Goals of the Legislation
- Establish a rational and fair protocol for the safe and legal use, cultivation, and sale of cannabis.
- Develop a new industry based on free market principles coupled with responsible regulation.
- Enable those who have been harmed by prohibition to get out of prison and expunge their criminal records.
- Provide opportunities for those most affected by the war on drugs to participate in the cannabis industry.
- Reform the criminal, employment, DUI, and gun laws to align with cannabis legalization.
- Modernize the Medical Marijuana Program to reduce costs to patients and increase patient access.
Safe and Legal
- Sets the minimum marijuana consumption age at 21 years old and mandates age verification for every purchase.
- Allows licensed medical marijuana patients to grow up to five plants in their home.
- Bans any marketing directed toward children and provides the appropriate deterrence to keep marijuana out of the hands of anyone under 21 years old.
- Provides clarity and consistency for workplace rules regarding marijuana use for all those operating in good faith and protects the Second Amendment rights of all Pennsylvanians.
Social and Economic Equity
- Expunges non-violent marijuana convictions and decriminalizes marijuana up to a certain limit.
- Creates licenses for social and economic equity applicants and establishes that the majority of new licensees are granted to social and economic applicants.
- Leverages Pennsylvania’s existing medical marijuana licensees to fulfill demand on an enhanced timetable while providing social and economic equity licensees the capital and know-how to succeed.
- Implements a Business Development Fund, administered by the Commonwealth Financing Authority, to support loans, grants, and studies.
- Authorizes farmers and craft growers across the Commonwealth to engage in the cultivation of marijuana.
- Through established demand, it enables any applicant who wants a license to get a license to cultivate marijuana in a manner that is safe and regulated.
It is time for Pennsylvania to join the growing movement toward legalization. New York and New Jersey are already in the process of setting up their legalized cannabis markets. Pennsylvanians should not have to travel and give their tax dollars to neighboring states just to consume something that already has majority support in Pennsylvania. This legislation creates regular procedures for the legalization, cultivation, and sale of cannabis. It will amend some of the historical inequities around criminal justice and will raise hundreds of millions of dollars for the Commonwealth annually while putting Pennsylvania in a position to compete with our neighbors.