Elections Government

Governor Says Keystone State Not Yet Ready For Recreational Marijuana

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Gov. Tom Wolf said in a radio interview Tuesday that the Keystone State is not yet ready for the legalization of recreational marijuana.

“I don’t think Pennsylvania – the citizens of Pennsylvania – are ready for it,” Wolf said on the KDKA-AM Radio Morning News that airs in Pittsburgh.

Wolf’s spokesperson told the Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader newspaper earlier this summer that the governor supports the “statewide decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana, as well, to keep low-level marijuana users out of the criminal justice system.”

Wolf’s comments on KDKA-AM clash with what recreational marijuana activists have stated and even the view of his Democratic lieutenant governor running mate John Fetterman, who BillyPenn.com reported in spring supports the legalization of recreational marijuana. Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale recently called for the state to legalize marijuana, making note of the $581 million a year in taxes it could raise for state coffers.

A 2017 poll by Franklin and Marshall College found that 56 percent of Pennsylvania voters are in favor of marijuana legalization, a 16-point increase since 2016.

“Our poll mirrors the nation on this issue,” Franklin and Marshall College Poll Director Terry Madonna said at the time. “My sense is legalization is not for several years yet. We have a conservative legislature and Gov. [Tom] Wolf has said the state is not ready for it.”

Pennsylvania approved medical marijuana in 2016 and began rolling out their program last year. A number of dispensaries began to open this year, including Beyond / Hello in Bristol Township.

Starting this month, some medical marijuana dispensaries began selling dried leaf form medical marijuana, which can be more affordable than other medical marijuana products and can be more effective for certain ailments.

While dry leaf marijuana can be smoked, state law only allows for it to be vaporized. Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine warned medical marijuana patients to keep their medical marijuana in its original container and carry their medical marijuana ID card.

Late last month, state officials released information that more than 52,000 patients have registered to take part in the medical marijuana program. More than 30,000 people have received their medical marijuana cards.

“What we’ve done with medical marijuana is to fill a gap that existed in terms of doctors’ options for treating their patients,” Wolf said in the KDKA-AM interview.

While Pennsylvania has not seen much movement on recreational marijuana, New Jersey under Gov. Phil Murphy is edging closer to allowing for the use of recreational marijuana. With millions of Pennsylvanians living within an hour of the Garden State, visiting New Jersey to for recreational marijuana would be very easy, taking potential tax revenue outside of Pennsylvania. Similar threats also loom as border states Maryland, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia eye proposals to legalize recreational marijuana, which remains prohibited by federal law.

About the author

Tom Sofield

Tom Sofield

Tom Sofield has covered news in Bucks County for five years for both newspaper and online publications. In 2012, Tom was honored at the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association Foundation's Keystone Press Awards for his coverage of President Obama's visit to Falls Township in 2011. When he's not covering news in the area, Tom enjoys checking out the newest restaurants and bars, exploring forgotten places of industry in the area, going to local parks and spending time with his friends and family. If there's one thing you should know about Tom, he is a local news junkie through and through. Email: tom@newtownpanow.com Phone: 215-431-1001