Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is urging state lawmakers to legalize the adult use of cannabis as a way to reduce the impact of a looming budget deficit. The state faces a budget shortfall of $3.2 billion, largely as a result of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the economy.
Fetterman took to Twitter last week, calling for the legalization of marijuana as a path to new tax revenue for the state and reform of the state’s penal system as a way to realize budget cost savings.
“I don’t know who needs to hear this jk I know who—but earnestly reforming our state prison system + legalization of marijuana could generate half of this COVID-19 deficit,” Fetterman tweeted on July 2. “It would, however, could have other unintended consequences like justice and personal freedom.”
“If only there was a widely-consumed unregulated cash crop, wholly confined to the black market, that could generate billions of dollars + 1000’s of jobs + help PA farmers,” he wrote in another tweet the same day.
Lt. Governor Says A Majority Of Pennsylvanians Support Legalization
The Democratic lieutenant governor continued his call for the legalization of recreational cannabis on Tuesday with Pittsburgh local media.
“Marijuana prohibition is a truly minority viewpoint in Pennsylvania,” Fetterman said in a television interview. “A significant majority of Pennsylvania are for legalization and I would just ask anyone who’s not – it’s like, well, you sure don’t want to pay more in taxes.”
Fetterman said that he believes legalizing cannabis in Pennsylvania could bring up to half a billion dollars into the state’s coffers each year.
“There’s already a thriving marijuana market in Pennsylvania,” he insisted. “Why not make it legal, why not make it safe and why not make it taxable to help Pennsylvania get back on its feet?”
Adrian Posteraro, the owner of the CBD Wellness Store in Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, agrees with Fetterman and said he doesn’t believe legalizing cannabis for adult use will be problematic.
“I think it’s no different than the state store selling alcohol,” Posteraro said. “As long as there’s education that supports responsible usage then I think it’s going to be fine.”
No Action Planned For Pending Legalization Bill
Republican state Sen. Patrick Stefano isn’t so sure, however. He is the chair of the Pennsylvania Senate’s Law and Justice Committee, where a bill that would legalize the recreational use of cannabis by adults awaits the panel’s attention. But Stefano said that he doesn’t believe that new taxes are the answer to the state’s budget woes.
“I think Pennsylvania has enough sin taxes now. We don’t need any more to try to fill the gap of revenue,” he said. “Why don’t we look at controlling our spending first?”
Stefano said that he has several concerns about cannabis legalization, including the lack of a credible way to measure and judge THC intoxication. His committee, he said, will need more information before it can take a vote.
“The bill to legalize recreational adult-use marijuana is in my committee and I don’t plan on bringing it up anytime soon yet,” said Stefano. “We have a lot of research yet to do.”