There’s been a lot of big talk about cannabis legalization. The reality is harder | Opinion


By Mark O’Keefe

Gov. Tom Wolf needs to take off his rose-colored glasses and face reality.

In a recent interview with KYW Newsradio in Philadelphia, Wolf said Pennsylvanians would “like to see some movement” on legalizing marijuana.

While it’s true that a recent Franklin & Marshall poll showed 59 percent of Pennsylvanians support legalizing recreational marijuana, up from 22 percent a decade ago, Republican leaders in the Pennsylvania Legislature remain overwhelmingly opposed to the change, thus guaranteeing there will be no “movement” on the issue at least for now.

Wolf, of course, has to know this. He has to realize since Republicans control both chambers in the Legislature, GOP leaders can kill any bill supporting legalizing recreational marijuana before it even comes up for a vote.

And he certainly should know that GOP leaders have been firm about not legalizing recreational marijuana.

Decision on adding anxiety, Tourette syndrome to medical marijuana list coming this summer

“I don’t think there’s any chance this passes this session. I will do whatever I can as a leader to not allow it to happen this session,” state Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, said.

“Legalizing federally prohibited drugs is not a top priority” for the House either, Mike Straub, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster County, told PennLive recently.

House Minority Leader Frank Dermody, D-Allegheny, has said that as long as marijuana remains illegal under federal law, “Pennsylvania should stay on the sidelines,” WITF-FM reported.

“Dermody also feels it’s important for the federal government to remove cannabis from the list of Schedule 1 drugs so that the industry can function more freely within the law,” his spokesman, Bill Patton, told the station.

Maybe Wolf thinks it’s time to legalize recreational marijuana given the widespread support it received on Lt. Gov. John Fetterman’s listening tour. Fetterman held meetings in all of the state’s 67 counties, inviting people to comment on the issue.

While his final report hasn’t been written yet, Fetterman, an outspoken advocate of legalizing marijuana, said there was widespread support for legalization even in some rural areas controlled by Republican.

“I want to be clear: some very conservative counties. I would peg that support as a little bit higher based on the rooms and our online feedback,” he said.

The controversy over Lt. Gov. Fetterman’s marijuana listening tour, explained

However, while a majority of people in those meetings did speak in favor of legalization, GOP lawmakers in some of those areas had different opinions.

Republican representatives Rob Kauffman (89th District), Paul Schemel (90th District), Jesse Topper (78th District) and John Hershey (82nd District) together released a statement criticizing Fetterman’s “listening tour.”

“We recognize this event for what it is: cover to push an agenda of legalizing drugs. Rep. Hershey already experienced this firsthand when he attended a ‘listening tour’ in Juniata County at the lieutenant governor’s invitation. We believe this tour is a sham and we decline to be a part of it,” read the statement.

The lawmakers said that despite the growing acceptance of marijuana for medicinal purposes, “incontestable research and experience shows recreational use to be dangerous, especially among our youth.” The statement pointed to a correlation of marijuana use with the use of harder drugs and irresponsible consumption of alcohol, and said Colorado, where recreational marijuana has been legal since 2014, has seen an increase in DUIs, school suspensions and road fatalities.

One crucial factor in whether legalization happens or not could be the opioid crises facing the state. Many people at Fetterman’s meetings contended that marijuana was much safer in controlling pain than opioids. However, many other people contended that marijuana was a gateway drug which eventually led to the deaths of friends and relatives who later switched to harder drugs.

Perhaps over time, GOP legislative leaders will change their views on this issue. Or maybe they’ll be replaced by lawmakers who are more supportive of legalization. But any such action will take a long time, if it ever occurs.

Whatever happens, though, it’s extremely unlikely that there will any “movement” on this issue in the near future.

And it’s hard to believe that Gov. Wolf doesn’t see that even through his rose-colored glasses.

Opinion contributor Mark O’Keefe, of Mechanicsburg, Pa., is the former Editorial Page editor of the Uniontown Herald-Standard. His work appears frequently on the Capital-Star’s Commentary Page.


  1. Marijuana consumers deserve and demand equal rights and protections under our laws that are currently afforded to the drinkers of far more dangerous and deadly, yet perfectly legal, widely accepted, endlessly advertised and even glorified as an All-American pastime, alcohol.

    Plain and simple!

    Legalize Nationwide!

    It’s time for us, the majority of The People to take back control of our national marijuana policy. By voting OUT of office any and all politicians who very publicly and vocally admit to having an anti-marijuana, prohibitionist agenda! Time to vote’em all OUT of office. Period. Plain and simple.

    Politicians who continue to demonize Marijuana, Corrupt Law Enforcement Officials who prefer to ruin peoples lives over Marijuana possession rather than solve real crimes who fund their departments toys and salaries with monies acquired through Marijuana home raids, seizures and forfeitures, and so-called “Addiction Specialists” who make their income off of the judicial misfortunes of our citizens who choose marijuana, – Your actions go against The Will of The People and Your Days In Office Are Numbered! Find new careers before you don’t have one.

    The People have spoken! Get on-board with Marijuana Legalization Nationwide, or be left behind and find new careers. Your choice.

  2. I came across this article while looking for something else & am fascinated. I am Canadian, & we legalized recreational marijuana here on a national level, almost a year ago, (1 yr. in October) and medical marijuana MANY years ago. Guess what? Our world hasn’t imploded, nor has our crime rate gone up, and all are teens aren’t hooked on pot. Our world hasn’t changed one bit. If anything, crime rates have dropped in certain areas. We have a well regulated system that has rules… no driving while under the influence, no one under 19 (18 in 2 provinces) can purchase or use marijuana, etc. Everything is doing fine. On a personal note, back in December I started using it myself to combat severe chronic pain from multiple illnesses, including a rare brain disorder. Up until then, I had been on DOCTOR PRESCRIBED narcotics. A very large dosage too. I’ve been on them now for over 12 years. Thanks to pot, I have been able to start lowering my dosage of narcotics, twice so far, & am almost ready to drop another dose. I’m hoping by next spring to be off them completely. And you CANNOT overdose on marijuana…period! Can’t say the same for my DOCTOR PRESCRIBED pain meds. No one here is going for “bigger & more powerful drugs”, because of pot, but the OPPOSITE. And thanks to legalization & making medical marijuana easier to access, I can now buy SAFE product, & in forms such as pure CBD, & mixes of THC & CBD in amounts that benefit me better medically. I’m getting even MORE benefit from it than before legalization. I’m not sure this has anything to do with weed, but even my blood sugar levels have dropped! It’s great! I can also buy oil, which is better for me health wise too, so no having to smoke dry & jeopardize my lungs. All this is because of legalizing not only medical, but recreational marijuana.

    Come on America… are you really gonna let us Canadians best you? And all those countries that it’s already legal in? How much proof do you need to legalize? I’d think our experiment here, plus states in your own country, should PROVE its time. Good luck to all of you who want this. And, if it doesn’t happen, you can always move


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