Will Pennsylvania Legalize Marijuana in 2022?
- State representatives have introduced a bill to legalize recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania.
- The measure would legalize the possession of marijuana by adults 21 and older.
- It would also allow the cultivation and sale of marijuana and permit residents to grow up to three mature marijuana plants at home.
- Social equity programs also play a leading role in the proposed legislation.
The Road To Legalization
Pennsylvania State Reps Jake Wheatley and Don Frankel, both Democrats, formally introduced House bill 2050 to legalize recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania.
Two months ago, Wheatley and Frankel distributed a memorandum requesting the support of their colleagues. In the memo, Rep. Wheatley wrote, “Now, more than ever, Pennsylvania needs to create jobs and industry; what better way to do that than to create a brand new industry?”
At a more recent press conference, Rep Wheatley made the following statement: “We think we have the industry standard. 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.”
On Tuesday, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro backed the bill and pointed out that Pennsylvania is lagging far behind other states when it comes to cannabis legalization. “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 nonviolent marijuana convictions—and that is non-negotiable.”
What’s in the Pennsylvania marijuana legalization bill?
If HB 2050 passes, adults 21 years of age and older would have the right to purchase up to an ounce of marijuana from licensed Pennsylvania dispensaries. Additionally, the same adults would be permitted to cultivate three mature and three immature plants for personal use.
Under the bill, a permitting process would be created for Pennsylvania dispensaries, processors, and growers. Cannabis companies with the highest gross revenue would legally be required to pay the highest renewal fees for licensing.
The proposal also calls for a 10 percent wholesale tax on business-to-business transactions within the industry. Processors and cultivators partnering with Pennsylvania cannabis farmers would be exempt from paying wholesale tax.
Cannabis consumers would be required to pay graduated sales and excise taxes. They would pay 6 percent for the first two years, followed by an increase of 12 percent, and finally 19 percent for each year after. Taxes would be allocated for addiction programs, community reinvestment, and the state general fund.
The sponsors of the bill also emphasized the need for social equity for communities negatively impacted by the War on Drugs. House Bill 2050 would serve to expunge the records of nonviolent cannabis offenders and allow their early release from prison. This proposal is aptly named “Cannabis Clean Slate.”
The legislation would also initiate a program to allocate tax from cannabis sales for the purpose of funding small, minority, and women-owned businesses. This initiative will be devised “to help disadvantaged populations benefit from this new industry,” Wheatley wrote in the memorandum.
Under the auspice of House Bill 2050, licenses would be readily accessible to veterans as well as disadvantaged communities. This initiative would be overseen by the Departments of Revenue, Agriculture, Health, and the attorney general’s office.
Rep. Frankel, the Democratic chair of the House Health Committee added, “With this legislation, Pennsylvania can begin to repair the historical harms and reap the benefits of a fact-based approach to regulating the cultivation, commerce, and use of cannabis for adults over 21 years old.”
There are already dispensaries in Pennsylvania operating to serve PA medical marijuana cardholders. However, with the state legislature controlled by the GOP, broad legalization proposals have historically been stifled. There have been several failed attempts to gain traction in the GOP-controlled legislature. In fact, House Bill 2050 bears the same title as the failed legislation introduced by Wheatley in 2020.
Two Pennsylvania state senators, Sharif Street (D) and Dan Laughlin (R), also announced separate legislation to legalize marijuana in Pennsylvania. However, at present, the bill has yet to be formally introduced.
As more lawmakers soften their stance on legalizing marijuana in Pennsylvania, cannabis advocates in the Keystone State remain optimistic that marijuana will be legalized in Pennsylvania in 2022, if not in 2021.