On Monday, Pennsylvania Lt. Governor John Fetterman kicked off his statewide trek to discuss the issue of legalizing cannabis for adults. Lt. Gov. Fetterman is journeying across the state as part of a marijuana listening tour that will engage the public and gather input for Gov. Tom Wolf, who will decide whether to push for legalization in Pennsylvania this year. Following closely behind Lt. Gov. Fetterman are a group of advocates who hope to keep the conversation focused on the benefits of a legal approach to adult-use cannabis.
Lt. Governor Fetterman’s marijuana listening tour will canvas Pennsylvania to gather feedback and commentary about legalizing cannabis for adult use. A majority of Pennsylvanians already support adult-use legalization. But Fetterman is starting his tour in the state’s more conservative central counties, where opposition to legalization is likely to be strongest.
Wherever Pennsylvanians stand on the issue, however, Fetterman says he hopes people will turn out to the events and share their views. “Honestly, I can’t emphasize how earnest I am about that,” Lt. Gov. Fetterman told PennLive. “It’s not interested in what John Fetterman thinks on the subject. What is interesting is what the people of Pennsylvania think. That is what this is truly about.”
What the lieutenant governor thinks on the subject, however, is that Pennsylvania should legalize, tax and regulate a retail cannabis industry. In that, he enjoys the support of other high-ranking elected officials. Pennsylvania’s Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has been outspoken about the financial and economic benefits of legalization. And Pittsburg Mayor Bill Peduto, Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner have both fought for legalization, decriminalization and other drug policy reforms.
Furthermore, Democratic lawmakers have already introduced legalization bills this year. Last week, Rep. Jake Wheatley (D-Allegheny) has introduced HB 50, a comprehensive adult-use bill. In Pennsylvania’s upper chamber, Senators are currently at work drafting their own legalization bills.
However, as popular and legislative support for legalization gains momentum, the opposition is digging in. Prominent Republican lawmakers, like Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Centre), have already blasted legalization. State Sen. Corman called efforts to legalize cannabis “reckless and irresponsible” and “the makings of a catastrophe.”
Yet Centre Country, which Corman represents, was the only central Pennsylvania district to swing blue in the 2018 midterms, giving Gov. Tom Wolf 58 percent of the vote. Shortly after being elected, Wolf tweeted that “it is time for Pennsylvania to take a serious and honest look at recreational marijuana.” Election results in Centre County may signal that Pennsylvania voters are tired of Republican leadership, at least on the issue of cannabis.
But it’s central PA where Lt. Gov. Fetterman is staring his marijuana listening tour. And that means the first voices he’ll hear on the issue will likely be those opposed. But that’s exactly what Fetterman wants. And he hopes local lawmakers will also make the time to attend and share their perspectives. “They are critical to the conversation whether they are pro or con or in the middle,” Fetterman said. For the cannabis advocates who will follow Fetterman on tour, the goal will be to challenge the stigmas around cannabis and the unsupported arguments against legalization.
After collecting data and input from events in all 67 Pennsylvania counties, Fetterman will assemble a report for Gov. Wolf. That report will also be available publicly. If you live in Pennsylvania but are unable to attend any of Lt. Gov. Fetterman’s speaking engagements, you can still make your voice heard. Fetterman says the speaking tour will soon have a website where Pennsylvanians can leave comments on the issue of legalization.
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