Published May 4, 2023
By Kyle Jaeger
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Pennsylvania lawmakers have filed new bills to legalize marijuana sales through state-run stores and to provide permits for farmers and small agriculture businesses to cultivate cannabis once adult-use sales are allowed.
About two months after circulating a cosponsorship memo for the legalization proposal, Rep. David Delloso (D) formally introduced the legislation on Tuesday.
The bill, which is similar to a measure Delloso filed last session, would allow adults 21 and older to possess, consume, cultivate and purchase cannabis through a state stores system run by the Liquor Control Board.
“In the interest of the efficient use of law enforcement resources, enhancing revenue for public purposes and individual freedom, the people of this Commonwealth find and declare that the use of cannabis should be legal for individuals who are at least 21 years of age and should be taxed,” the text states.
Retail cannabis sales would be taxed at 19 percent, and all of that revenue would go toward the state general fund. The bill would also create a distinct regulatory scheme for industrial hemp.
Notably, the legislation, which has 20 initial cosponsors, also contemplates the possibility of allowing cannabis imports from other states or countries where marijuana is legal. It would also prohibit regulators from importing marijuana that is produced somewhere that doesn’t accept exports from Pennsylvania.
Lawmakers in several states have pursued interstate marijuana commerce legislation in anticipation of a federal policy change. Oregon and California have already enacted bills to that end, and similar legislation is on the desk of Washington State’s governor.
In a cosponsorship memo for the Pennsylvania bill that was first circulated in February, Delloso emphasized the harms of marijuana criminalization for individuals caught up in the drug war as well as the economic toll of enforcing prohibition. Meanwhile, implementing a legal cannabis market stands to generate hundreds of millions in tax revenue and thousands of jobs, he said.
“However, permitting private companies to sell cannabis in Pennsylvania could allow large corporations to take over the cannabis industry, putting profits before the well-being of our communities,” he wrote. “For these reasons, my legislation will legalize adult use cannabis through the current state store system in order to ensure the safety and integrity of cannabis sales in Pennsylvania.”
Sen. Marty Flynn (D) released a cosponsorship memo this year that also called on lawmakers to join him in support of forthcoming legislation to legalize marijuana through a state-run program, but his bill hasn’t been filed yet.
Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) proposed to legalize and tax adult-use marijuana with a private commercial market as part of his 2023-2024 budget request in March. It’s not clear if he’s open to the state-run system, which his predecessor signaled he backed as “an ideal way to distribute” cannabis.
Meanwhile, Rep. Melissa Shusterman (D) and 13 cosponsors also filed a new bill on Tuesday that seeks to establish a permitting process for farmers to cultivate cannabis for marijuana grower-processors after legalization is enacted.
“When adult-use cannabis is finally legalized in Pennsylvania, it is my belief that everyone should have accessible and equitable entry into the adult-use cannabis industry, including farmers and small enterprises,” a cosponsorship memo states. “Therefore, my legislation will establish a permit for farmers and other small agricultural ventures to grow and sell adult-use cannabis to existing grower/processors on a limited basis.”
The lawmaker sponsored separate legislation last session that would have expanded the number of medical marijuana cultivators in the state, prioritizing small farms to break up what she characterized as a monopoly or large corporations that’s created supply problems.
The prospects of enacting legalization increased in the Keystone State after Democrats took control of the House following last year’s election. Republicans have maintained control of the Senate, however, but there are certain GOP members like Sens. Dan Laughlin (R) and Mike Regan (R) who’ve backed reform.
In February, Laughlin also sent a letter to state law enforcement, urging officials to take steps to protect gun rights for cannabis consumers, particularly medical marijuana patients, in light of a federal court’s recent ruling on the issue.
Meanwhile, Reps. Dan Frankel (D) and Donna Bullock (D) circulated a cosponsorship memo in January about forthcoming cannabis legalization legislation that doesn’t mention utilizing a state-run model.
Street took some advocates by surprise recently by joining other senators in urging a federal court not to authorize an overdose prevention site site in Philadelphia, while supporting a proposal to ban the harm reduction centers statewide.