Two Pennsylvania state lawmakers introduced legislation on Tuesday that would legalize recreational cannabis for adults and create a regulated market for adult-use marijuana. The legislation from Democratic state Reps. Jake Wheatley and Dan Frankel, House Bill 2050, also includes social equity provisions to encourage participation in the legal cannabis industry by members of communities disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs.
“I’m once again championing the effort to legalize adult-use recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania. We’ve heard from residents across the state, and the overwhelming majority agree it’s time to pass this initiative,” Wheatley said in a joint statement on Tuesday. “Not only would it create jobs and generate much-needed revenue, but it contains important social justice provisions that would eliminate the aggressive enforcement of simple marijuana possession laws in marginalized communities.”
House Bill 2050, which shares the designator of a 2020 cannabis legalization bill that failed to gain the support of the GOP-led legislature, would decriminalize, regulate and tax adult-use, recreational marijuana, making it legal for purchase for those 21 and older. The legislation would also establish multiple grant programs funded by cannabis tax revenue that would benefit small, minority and women-owned businesses in Pennsylvania. Frankel said such measures were necessary to address the harm caused by decades of cannabis prohibition.
“Failed cannabis policies of the past have resulted in the worst of all possible worlds: insufficient protection of the public health, aggressive enforcement that disproportionately harms communities of color and zero revenue for this commonwealth,” said Frankel, who serves as the Democratic chair of the House Health Committee. “With this legislation, Pennsylvania can begin to repair the historical harms and reap the benefits of a fact-based approach to regulating the cultivation, commerce and use of cannabis for adults over 21 years old.”
The legislation would also establish a regulatory process for cannabis growers, processors, and retailers and levy a 10 percent tax on wholesale transactions. License fees for cannabis businesses will be based on gross revenue, with larger companies paying higher fees. Consumers will pay a retail tax of six percent for the first two years, increasing to 12 percent and then 19 percent over the following two years.
Democratic Leaders Signal Support for Legalization
House Bill 2050 is already gaining the support of Pennsylvania Democratic leaders including the state’s lieutenant governor and attorney general, who called for the records of those with past marijuana convictions to be cleared through “Cannabis Clean Slate” provisions of the bill.
“NY has legalized marijuana. NJ has legalized marijuana. It’s time for PA to join our neighbors, and legalize marijuana,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro tweeted on Tuesday morning. “But let me be clear: We must simultaneously expunge the records of those serving time for nonviolent marijuana convictions—and that is non-negotiable.”
In February, Pennsylvania Democratic state Senator Sharif Street of Philadelphia and Senator Dan Laughlin, a Republican from Erie, announced that they would be sponsoring bipartisan legislation to legalize adult-use cannabis in the state. However, they have yet to actually introduce a bill in the legislature.
Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, who for years has been a vocal supporter of cannabis reform and is now running to represent the Keystone State in the U.S. Senate, says that it is time for more Republican lawmakers to support cannabis legalization.
“Pennsylvania wants this; Pennsylvania needs this, for any number of reasons. I always tell people that the key takeaway is that prohibition is so much more work than just admitting that you’ve evolved on marijuana,” Fetterman said in a telephone interview with High Times. “And let’s just make this legal in a bipartisan way, because a majority of their constituents want this, too.”
“I love to see any time another bill comes up,” he added, referring to House Bill 2050. “Right now, we still have one Republican sponsor in the Senate, and it all comes down to when the Republicans acknowledge that the time for legal weed in Pennsylvania is right.”
A.J. Herrington is a San Diego-based freelance writer covering cannabis news, business, and culture.