In rebooted recreational cannabis legalization plan, Pgh. lawmaker calls for ‘Cannabis Clean Slate’

Rep. Jake Wheatley's plan to legalize recreational marijuana would focus tax revenues to community revitalization and education funding. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

One of the Pennsylvania House’s most vocal advocates for recreational cannabis legalization is rolling out a rejiggered version of his plan to lift the state’s longstanding prohibition on perhaps one of the most poorly prohibited illicit substances on earth.

In a ‘Dear Colleague’ memo sent out at mid-afternoon on Tuesday, Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny, laid out an ambitious plan that would not only dedicate the tax revenue from legalization to a host of popular causes, but also move to undo what criminal justice reform advocates have described as the long-term and devastating effects of a marijuana arrest.

“The failed war on drugs produced countless victims to heavy handed, unreasonable drug laws. Perhaps the most important aspect of this legislation is my Cannabis Clean Slate,” Wheatley wrote. “By legalizing the use of cannabis and simultaneously expunging records and releasing non-violent drug offenders from prison, the Commonwealth can do its part to repair the damage of the last 40 years.”

Wheatley test-drove an earlier version of his plan at a Capitol press conference in February 2019. In his memo to his colleagues, the Pittsburgh lawmaker said his proposal last year was ahead of its time because “there are still some whose ideology keeps them from allowing Pennsylvania to have such an important bipartisan conversation.”

That sent him back to the drawing board. And after extensive conversations with stakeholders, Wheatley said the end product was the revised proposal that emerged Tuesday.

As was the case with his earlier proposal, Wheatley’s bill would funnel tax revenue from sales into reducing student debt, and funding after-school programs and affordable housing. It would also underwrite a “minority and women grant program to help disadvantaged populations benefit from this new industry,” as well as a public information campaign to “to educate the public on adult-use cannabis.”

marijuana

On Tuesday, Wheatley wrote that his revised proposal would “[create] a dynamic permitting structure for growers, processors and dispensaries, allowing any size company to enter the legal cannabis market.

That would include “lowering initial application and permit fees to alleviate financial barriers. Renewal fees will be based on gross revenue; the higher a company’s gross revenue the higher their renewal fee, which is the fairest way to do it,” he wrote.

The bill calls for a 10 percent wholesale tax levied on business-to-business transactions. But growers and processors who “partner with an existing Pennsylvania Farm will not be required to pay the wholesale tax,” Wheatley wrote.

Consumers would get hit with an excise tax, on top of the state’s 6 percent sales tax. That excise tax would be levied at 6 percent for the first two years, rising to 12 percent fo the third and fourth years, and then 19 percent for each year after that, rendering a total tax rate of 25 percent in the out years.

“Keeping the tax initially low and allowing it to grow over time is a great example of the advice we heard during numerous meetings with stakeholders,” Wheatley wrote. “This is part of a critical theme of improvement, and why I felt introducing [the revised legislation] was so important. This legislation is the evidence of continued good work being done, even when we aren’t yet able to meet the final goal.”

Our Stuff.
Elizabeth Hardison
 leads our coverage this morning with the story of a transgender Pa. prison inmate who has sued the state Department of Correctionsclaiming their 8th Amendment rights were violated by the agency.

Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2020 budget plan earmarks $5M in aid to communities hit by prison and residential center shutdowns. Stephen Caruso has the details.

In some consumer friendly news: Caruso has the details on how you can request a mail-in ballot if you can’t make it to the April 28 primary. Hardison gets you smart fast on a plan to update Pennsylvania’s science standards. And state officials want to hear from you.

Temple University communications student Michala Butler, of Harrisburg, spent five days on the ground in New Hampshire in the lead-up to the Tuesday primary. She shared her experience with the Capital-Star. And now we’re sharing it with you.

From our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune: During a Tuesday speech to the Chamber of Commerce, Mayor Jim Kenney appealed to leaders to ‘change the city’s anti-business narrative.’

And from our partners at The Pittsburgh Current: An Allegheny County judge called a Black juror ‘Aunt Jemima,’ and that’s a reminder of why Pennsylvania’s judicial election system is crying out for reform.

On our Commentary Page, a Philadelphia woman who’s living with multiple sclerosis says the Affordable Care Act was a boon for women of color — but now it’s at risk.

Pipeline construction has become a flashpoint between state environmentalists and the natural gas industry. (Flickr)

Elsewhere.
The Inquirer
 explains how the fate of Philly’s oil refinery is ‘fracturing’ local Democratic politics.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Pittsburgh will review materials shared between the DOJ and Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani, the Post-Gazette reports.
PennLive has the story of the ridiculous — and sexist — Twitter shade thrown at Second Lady Gisele Fetterman.
The Morning Call breaks down how much Lehigh Valley towns would pay for State Police protection under a new Wolf administration proposal.

Here’s your #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:

View this post on Instagram

Here’s a little sunshine just in case you’ve got a case of the Mondays! – ☀️ 🌞 ☀️ – Don’t worry I think I’ve got a week full of bangers on deck for ya! #Sunset #magichour #skyscrapers ———————————————————————— 📷#Mavic 2 Pro📱1/12.5s | f5.6 | ISO100 ••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••••• DM for Prints 🖼 Follow for 🌇🔥🌃 ———————————————————————— #215shooters #aerialart #aerialphotography #agameoftones #agameofdrones #birdseyeview #citykillerz #cityscape #discover_phl #drone #dronephotography #droneoftheday #igfromabove #philadelphia #philly #phillysupportphilly #phillyigers #sunrise #urbanphotography #yophillymag #drones_jd80aerials

A post shared by Aerial Photos by Joe Donnelly (@jd80aerials) on

The Trump administration doesn’t ‘have the facts on its side’ in its immigration lawsuit, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy says, according to WHYY-FM.
Veteran Harrisburg activist Gene Stilp had his Trump flag-burning citation dismissed, the PA Post reports.
Stateline.org explains what happens with the Census in places struck by natural disaster.
D.C. statehood got its first vote in 27 years in a U.S. House committee on Tuesday, Roll Call reports.What Goes On.
The Senate Democratic Policy Committee meets on the campus of Delaware County Community College in Media, Pa., for a 10 a.m. session. The Republican Policy Committee meets at 1 p.m. at the Marysville Lions Club in Marysville, Pa., about 25 minutes north of Harrisburg.

WolfWatch.
Gov. Tom Wolf
 heads to Lock Haven, Pa., for a rescheduled event on the campus of Lock Haven University. At 11:15 a.m., he’ll kick off the publicity tour for his new college scholarship program. The $200 million initiative is funded by raiding the state’s Horse Racing Trust Fund.

Heavy Rotation.
The groove on this tune is all we want on this Wednesday morning, Conveniently enough, it’s called ‘All I Want.‘ And it’s by Bob Moses, who is definitely leading us to a 120 BPM promised land today.

Wednesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
The New York Rangers 
beat sentimental favorites Winnipeg 4-1 in a late game on Tuesday night.

And now you’re up to date.