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September 25, 2019

Gov. Tom Wolf supports legalizing recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania

Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman are now pushing for decriminalization of minor offenses, and a path to expungement

Government Marijuana Legalization
Tom Wolf marijuana legalization Nabil K. Mark/Centre Daily Times/TNS

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced Wednesday he now supports legalizing recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania.

Gov. Tom Wolf now supports legalizing recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania, he said Wednesday, asking legislators to start moving towards an overhaul of the state's marijuana laws.

Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman called for three specific actions Wednesday: a bill which would decriminalize non-violent and small cannabis-related offenses; a path towards expungement of past convictions for non-violent and small cannabis-related offenses; and consideration by the Pennsylvania General Assembly of legalization of adult-use, recreational marijuana.

“We now know the majority of Pennsylvanians are in favor of legalization, and that includes me,” Wolf said Wednesday. “I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish together, especially the criminal justice reforms I am proposing today, which will have an immediately positive influence on thousands of families across Pennsylvania.

The announcement comes at the completion of Fetterman's listening tour across Pennsylvania, during which he visited all 67 of the Pennsylvania's counties to hear what residents thought about legalizing recreational marijuana. Pennsylvania residents also were invited to submit their thoughts through an online portal.

In mid-March, less than two months after Wolf and Fetterman launched the online portal, they reported receiving more than 21,000 messages about marijuana legalization from Pennsylvania residents. Ultimately, there were more than 10,000 attendees at Fetterman's meetings, and the online portal received more than 44,000 comments, according to Wolf's office.

The governor's office said "among the many who voiced their opinions, the majority supported legalization" of adult-use recreational marijuana.

A report from Fetterman's listening tour, released Wednesday, shows that among listening tour attendees, "65-70% approve of adult-use cannabis legalization."

Among the state's 67 counties, Lehigh County voiced the most support at Fetterman's tour stops, with 100% of attendees supporting legalization. Jefferson County voiced the strongest opposition, with 67% of attendees in opposition.

Considering responses from both the listening-tour and the online portal, Philadelphia voiced the strongest support of legalization at 96% of respondents in favor, while Fulton County voiced the strongest opposition at 57% against.

The most commonly-cited reason for legalization, according to the report, was criminal justice. The most commonly-cited reason for opposition was the concern that cannabis is a gateway drug.

Wolf's support Wednesday represents a sea change from 13 months ago, when he said he didn't believe Pennsylvania was ready for recreational marijuana. Last December, Wolf seemed to be warming to the idea, saying he was ready to take a "serious and honest look at recreational marijuana," but he didn't outright voice his support at the time.

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