Penn. Lawmakers Focus on Social Equity in Cannabis Legislation Bill

Penn. Lawmakers Focus on Social Equity in Marijuana Legalization Bill

A bill to legalize recreational marijuana for adults in Pennsylvania has been formally introduced, and sponsors emphasized the plan is to enact a policy change that prioritizes social equity for communities most harmed by the War on Drugs.

The most important part of this legislation seeks to repair some of the damage caused by generations of harmful policy in this area.

Dan Frankel

Democratic Reps. Jake Wheatley and Dan Frankel rolled out the legislation at a news conference, months after the two circulated a co-sponsorship memo urging colleagues to get on board with cannabis reform.

“We think we have the industry standard,” Wheatley said. “You’ve heard me over and over again, year after year, talk about this important issue. For some, it’s an economic question. For others, it’s a question around access and opportunity. But the baseline of why I’ve been harping on this for as long as I have is the social and criminal justice reform aspects.”

The lawmaker acknowledged “there’s real significant opportunities within our commonwealth to increase our revenue from an industry that we see is growing all across all of our neighbors.”

Under the proposal, adults 21 and older would be able to purchase and possess up to an ounce of cannabis and could receive a permit for home cultivation to grow up to three mature and three immature plants.

People with marijuana convictions would have their records automatically expunged, and those currently incarcerated with cannabis offenses made legal under the measure would be released.

the author writes

A 13% excise tax would be imposed on marijuana sales, with 15% of revenue going to community reinvestment, 15% to substance misuse treatment programs and 70% for the state general fund. Those from communities most impacted by cannabis criminalization, as well as veterans, would be prioritized to receive business licenses.

“This is a piece of legislation that’s been worked on by many staff at the Democratic caucus, worked with advocates, looked at models from other states, and I think it’s really a great piece of legislation that I think will hopefully galvanize a conversation to finally deal with this,” Frankel said. “Now we all know the terrible history of the criminalization of cannabis — mass incarceration for people of color, as well as harmful ramifications for people’s ability to get jobs, education or loans. The most important part of this legislation seeks to repair some of the damage caused by generations of harmful policy in this area.”

The introduction of HB 2050 comes as a bipartisan Senate duo is also in the process of crafting separate legislation to legalize cannabis. Sens. Sharif Street (D) and Dan Laughlin (R) announced some details of the proposal earlier this year, but have not formally introduced the bill.

Meanwhile, state Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro pointed out Pennsylvania lags behind other nearby states on cannabis reform. “NY has legalized marijuana. NJ has legalized marijuana,” he said in a tweet. “It’s time for PA to join our neighbors, and legalize marijuana. But let me be clear: We must simultaneously expunge the records of those serving time for non-violent marijuana convictions — and that is non-negotiable.”

Outside the legislature, Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said marijuana legalization was a priority while negotiating the annual budget with lawmakers. But his formal spending request did not contain legislative language to actually accomplish the cannabis policy change. 

This piece is part of a content-sharing arrangement between The News Station and Marijuana Moment.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE, etc.

Kyle Jaeger is Marijuana Moment's Los Angeles-based associate editor. His work has also appeared in High Times, VICE, etc.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

You have Successfully Subscribed!