The State of Cannabis: Simplifying the Politics

Posted by Kody Fairfield on Sep 14th 2020

The State of Cannabis: Simplifying the Politics

What’s Happening with Recreational Legalization in Pennsylvania?

The Issue

  • Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has renewed calls for the PA government to pass legislation to legalize cannabis, but critics from both sides of the aisle say it’s likely dead in the water, or worse.

The Support:

  • Wolf Administration has tied the legalization to economic recovery from COVID impacts, stating that they believe it could net ~$600 million. Wolf has said he believes this type of revenue can be achieved through a state-run system that makes the PA government the beneficiary of the profits and tax revenue generated.
  • Wolf Administration has also tagged an unspecified amount of this revenue for new spending on “restorative justice programs,” such as paying to undo harms stemming from cannabis prohibition.

The Opposition:

  • COVID damaged what was on pace to be a “promising” fiscal year, turning a roaring economy into a $3.2 billion dollar shortfall. Much of this had to do with the Wolf administration’s response to the pandemic, both in the economic shutdowns and the government’s bureaucratic mess that continues to significantly slow down relief responses.
  • Republicans, who run the PA legislature, have opposed the bill for several reasons. First, they believe the governor is attempting to legislate via press conference and without meeting with the legislators. Gov. Wolf has even admitted he doesn’t remember his last face-to-face meeting. Republicans are also strongly concerned with the state of the economy, claiming the revenue estimate of ~$600 million is likely flawed and the new spending on the “restorative justice programs” creates new spending during a steep budget shortfall. Lastly, they believe that a heavier focus on direct support for small businesses to get people back to work, getting kids back in school, and returning stability in the market is a better approach for the immediate crisis.
  • On the left, the Wolf Administration is also being countered. Progressive State Senator Daylin Leach, an author of one of the legalization bills up for a potential vote, has said that Wolf’s plan is a “nightmare.” Leach thinks a state-run model would lack innovation, increase prices, and kill large parts of the industry before it starts, much like other industries run by the government.

The Questions:

  • Is this, as Green Market Report author Gretchen Gailey says, a “poison pill” intentionally designed to fail?
  • Are Republicans and State Sen. Leach too critical?
  • What are your thoughts?
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