Fetterman’s listening tour of all 67 counties wrapped up late last month. The Democrat, who supports legalization, reflected on his experience in an interview Tuesday. He is drafting a report on lessons learned. Separately, several legislators in the Capitol have introduced bills to allow recreational use of cannabis for adults.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Answer: I think that this has affirmed my belief that Pennsylvanians want civil discourse on policy beliefs that they may or may not agree with. I also learned that a majority of people want it to be decriminalized and see expungement — it’s crazy to see someone’s record tarnished based on a simple nonviolent offense involving marijuana.
People said they wanted separate medical and recreational programs. They said they wanted it grown on Pennsylvania farms to create Pennsylvania jobs, and taxed to benefit Pennsylvanians. The number-one choice was property tax relief and/or fixing the roads. Pot for potholes was the joke. They also don’t want it in your corner store, so you can’t just walk into a Wawa and get marijuana. People were interested in that state store approach.
A: People constantly referred to it as a plant. Why do we criminalize a plant? Why is a plant considered a drug? Supporters believe that the tax revenue is important. They believe that disproportionate amount of arrests of people of color is unfair. They don’t believe that it’s appropriate to classify it like heroin and cocaine or something dangerous. They believe it belongs in the basket with alcohol and tobacco.
A: Some folks believe it is a gateway drug and will lead to increased driving-under-the-influence accidents and injuries. Another major concern was, by making it legal, the government was somehow condoning it. There’s concern that cannabis can harm developing brains and legalization would increase the amount of young people using it.
A: I wasn’t really surprised by anything except how robustly medical cannabis was embraced. It was pretty controversial, and it had taken a while before it was passed. I also found it surprising that nobody believes it’s a hard drug or should be classified as a Schedule I drug. Schedule I creates a lot of problems in respect to insurance and reimbursement for medical treatments. I could count on one hand how many people didn’t feel this way in a tour of all these counties.
A: Without a doubt, I would say a base of 65 percent of all Pennsylvanians are in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana.