Four states could legalize recreational cannabis next month. Pa.? Not so much | Friday Morning Coffee

October 16, 2020 7:05 am

NEW YORK, NY – JULY 09: Elizabeth Owens protests on the steps of New York City Hall in support of the proposed Fairness and Equity Act, which would attempt to reform racially biased arrests in regards to marijuana possession in New York state on July 9, 2014 in New York City. New York State recently passed a new law allowing medical marijuana usage. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

When confronted with the inexorable march of progress, it’s pretty well established that, given the choice, Pennsylvania will respond with a hearty “Naw, fam, we’re good,” and contentedly allow progress to march on by, as it watches from the comfort of a lawn chair, a plate of perogies balanced on its lap, and a can of Iron City clutched in one mitt.

In fact, the Keystone State’s long and storied history is replete with examples of resistance to progress: Witness the continued and inexplicable endurance of Pennsylvania’s state-operated liquor monopoly; the Give the Local Cops Radar Guns bill that never passes, and, of course, state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe.

So, thus is it, that even as Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman continue to hit a brick wall of GOP legislative resistance to a plan to legalize recreational cannabis, voters in four states, including New Jersey, could well vote to legalize it, our friends at The Appeal report.

If voters in the Garden State, Arizona, South Dakota, and Montana give their assent, the money raised from the proceeds of recreational cannabis sales would be used to raise badly needed revenue for pandemic-ravaged economies and to reverse the adverse effects of stupendously destructive marijuana enforcement, the Appeal notes.

Gov, Tom Wolf (R) and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (L) call on Pa. lawmakers to legalize recreational marijuana during a press conference at Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency headquarters in Dauphin County, Pa., on 9/3/20 (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

Right now, 11 states and Washington D.C. have legalized recreational adult use cannabis, and medical marijuana is legal in 33 states, including Pennsylvania.

Voters in South Dakota and Mississippi also will be asked whether they want to legalize medical marijuana legalization this fall, according to The Appeal. In Oregon, voters will be asked whether they want to decriminalize possession of illegal drugs “by replacing criminal penalties with fines, and whether to legalize psilocybin therapy,” The Appeal noted.

Pennsylvania, meanwhile, has hardly been shy about legalizing other forms of vice and upping so-called “sin taxes” on cigarettes and other tobacco products when the mood strikes. And once the floodgates were open on gambling, there was little effort to resist its further expansion. And it’s entirely possible that lawmakers could vote to further expand video gambling terminals, or VGTs, to bars and restaurants as they look to fill a massive budget hole in the next month or so.

There’s a strong argument to be made that the deleterious effects of smoking, drinking and gambling, are far more impactful than recreational cannabis. The former can destroy lives and ruin careers. The latter usually results in nothing more harmful than someone purchasing yet another copy of Bob Marley’s ‘Legend‘ comp.

(Image via Flickr Commons)

In all seriousness, however, it’s important to note that the ballot measures in each of the four states tackles criminal justice reform in one way or another, which legalization advocates and reformers alike argue is essential to undoing years of bad drug policy.

“Cannabis criminalization is a cornerstone of the war on drugs,” Jared Moffat, campaigns coordinator at the Marijuana Policy Project, told The Appeal. “People of color are arrested at far higher rates for marijuana possession than white people. And that’s not due to any difference in usage. That’s just due to a racist policy.”

Citing data compiled by the Pew Research CenterThe Appeal reported that 40 percent of all drug arrests in 2018 were marijuana-related, down from 52 percent in 2010. The overwhelming majority were for possession, as opposed to sale or manufacture.”

Fetterman told the Capital-Star Thursday that he and Wolf “fervently want Pennsylvania to lead in the cannabis legalization space, and have our commonwealth fully realize the significant social justice, jobs, revenue, freedom and needed balm for our farmers and veterans”

In September, a spokesman for House Republicans told the Capital-Star that “there is just not the support in the caucus for legalizing marijuana right now.”

We’ll pause to note here that people said the same thing about slots and table games. But when the budgetary rubber met the road, the will for it suddenly materialized. That could well happen again. As was the case with gambling, competition from a neighbor could be the thing that pushes lawmakers to act.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
Philadelphia City Council
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From our partners at the Philadelphia Gay News: Here’s a look at how LGBTQ Philadelphians are casting their ballots this voting season.

And from your humble newsletter author, here’s a look at the two-front war that Capitol Hill Democrats are waging to save the Affordable Care Act this campaign season.

En la Estrella-Captial: La administración de Wolf anuncia planes para hacerle frente a la oleada del otoño del COVID-19. Y ¿con la fecha límite que se avecina, podrán los legisladores de Pa. hacer las correcciones electorales muy necesarias a tiempo?

On our Commentary Page this morning, with her job on the line, Pennsylvania Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm offers an apologia for her continued employment.

COVID-19 patients in Philadelphia are not amused by President Donald Trump’s cavalier attitude toward the illness, the Inquirer reports.
Second Lady Gisele Fetterman says she won’t pursue charges against a woman who engaged in a racist tirade against her, the Tribune-Review reports.
Elizabethtown College in Lancaster County has opened a food pantry for its student bodyPennLive reports.
If you’re jailed in Pennsylvania, in most cases, you can still vote, the Morning Call reports.
Wilkes-Barre Mayor George Brown has proposed doubling sewer and recycling fees, the Citizens-Voice reports.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day.

WHYY-FM explains the fight over Philly’s 10-year tax abatement.
Many Pennsylvania voters are hand-delivering their mail-in ballots this voting season, WITF-FM reports. homes in on the partisan sparring over ballot drop boxes.
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What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
Helping you plan your weekend, Rep. Jim Struzzi, R-Indiana, holds an 11 a.m. ‘Family Fun Day,’ at Pumpkin Hill Farm in Indiana, Pa. on Saturday. If your idea of family fun is donating $35 to $100 to Rep. Struzzi, then this is your gig.

You Say it’s Your Birthday Dept.
Mega best wishes go out this morning to veteran Democratic activist, and longtime Friend O’the BlogMary Isenhour, of Harrisburg, who celebrates today. Congratulations and enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation.
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Friday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link.
As ever, The Guardian has the Top 10 things to look for ahead of this weekend’s round of Premier League action, including a preview of Spurs’ match against West Ham United on Sunday. Aston Villa, of course, will prevail over Leicester.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.