Shortly after Governor Tom Wolf announced his support for legalizing recreational marijuana in the state, Pennsylvania lawmakers introduced a bill that is being hailed by cannabis advocates as the “gold standard” for weed legalization.
Democratic Senators Daylin Leach and Sharif Street filed the legislation that covers everything from social equity provisions to marijuana delivery services.
“Pennsylvania’s cannabis policy is cruel, irrational and expensive. Prohibition has destroyed countless lives and has cost taxpayers millions,” Leach said in a statement.
The senator argues prohibition also helps fund violent drug cartels and vowed to fight this “tough battle” until the end.
“The stakes are too high for us to fail,” he stressed.
Under the legislation, which “will end the ongoing destruction caused by cannabis prohibition and will establish a fair protocol for the use, sale and regulation of cannabis,” adults aged 21 and over will be allowed to possess and buy pot, but also cultivate up to 10 cannabis plants – more than in any other state that has fully legalized weed.
Additionally, the bill includes the automatic expungement of previous criminal convictions, which recently took effect in New York as well.
Advocates shouldn’t rush to celebrate, though
Perhaps most notably, the senators proposed that taxes collected from cannabis sales be directed toward school districts, which could amount to $500 million in the first fiscal year of legalization.
School districts would be allowed to allocate the funds according to their needs.
“An end to the prohibition of cannabis is overdue. 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,” Senator Street adds.
The nonprofit organization Keystone Cannabis Coalition that advocates for full legalization of recreational weed in Pennsylvania called the bill “fantastic.”
“It prioritizes the cannabis consumer and corrects some serious social justice problems. If it passes, it could become the gold standard legalization bill for the free world,” Director Les Stark told The Philadelphia Inquirer.
However, Republicans, who currently control both chambers of the Pennsylvania state legislature, have recently expressed they have no interest in legalizing recreational marijuana, meaning the future of the bill hangs in the balance.
At the moment, support from across the aisle has been lacking.
Following Governor Wolf’s call to lawmakers to draft cannabis legislation, House Republicans stated they were “disappointed” and “frustrated” over his support for recreational marijuana.
GOP House leaders noted that cannabis is still classified as a Schedule I drug by the federal government and underscored that the state is already experiencing an opioid epidemic they believe would be exacerbated by access to legal weed.