During a so-called “Twitter Townhall,” Gov. Wolf tweeted that it was “time for Pennsylvania to take a serious and honest look at recreational marijuana.”
Wolf answered questions from Twitter users on Wednesday on a number of issues, including raising the minimum wage, voting reforms, and criminal justice reform. But it was his comment about legalizing cannabis for recreational use that struck an instant chord with advocates and marijuana consumers.
To legalize recreational use, Wolf would need buy-in from Republican lawmakers in Harrisburg, who have traditionally opposed such a move.
“Happy marijuana holidays!” said Chris Goldstein, an organizer for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). “This is a new position for Gov. Wolf. We’re grateful that he’s come around.”
Wolf often has said he was willing to approach legalization with an open mind. As 10 states have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes, and several states bordering Pennsylvania have begun to consider it, Wolf appears to be giving it his strongest consideration yet.
In New Jersey, Delaware, and New York, support for legalizing the drug has gained momentum. In the Garden State, Gov. Murphy ran on a pro-legalization platform. Legislators in Trenton likely will pass a bill next year that would include cannabis microbusinesses and home delivery. On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York announced that he would push to have recreational marijuana legalized n 2019.
A new legalization bill, sponsored by State Sens. Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery) and Sharif Street (D., Phila.), will be introduced in January. Additional legislation by State Reps. Jake Wheatley (D., Allegheny) and Jordan Harris (D., Phila.), likely will be reintroduced next year.
“I’m excited and encouraged by the governor’s change of heart,” said Leach. “He and I have spent a lot of time talking about this issue. The experience of other states shows that ending prohibition has no downside to it. Additionally, it will go a long way moving the ball forward on criminal justice reform. I’m sure whatever bill we pass will be the best in the nation.”
In July, state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale issued a report that optimistically projected Pennsylvania could generate more than $580 million if marijuana was legalized for adult recreational use.
Earlier Wednesday, Wolf commuted the 292-year sentence being served by a convicted marijuana and cocaine dealer to make him eligible for parole. Wolf called the sentence being served by Benny Ortega, 60, “egregious and inhumane.”