Lt. Gov. John Fetterman offers ‘safe space’ for opinions on legalizing marijuana

A speaker addresses Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Rep. Patty Kim. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

HARRISBURG — Just a few miles from the Capitol, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman offered Pennsylvanians a “safe space” to speak their minds about legalizing recreational marijuana.

“I pledge civility and an open platform,” the Democrat said Monday at the Jewish Federation of Greater Harrisburg, adding that he imagined people for, against, and undecided on the idea were in attendance. “Every one of those viewpoints is going to be respected tonight.”

The event, attended by more than 100 people, was the official launch of a 67-county listening tour Fetterman is undertaking to gather input on the possibility of legal weed in Pennsylvania.

Gov. Tom Wolf has emphasized that the listening tour is just that: an opportunity to hear what Pennsylvanians’ think.

And overwhelmingly, they think marijuana should be legal.

Of the dozens of people who got up to share their views Monday, the vast majority said they are in favor of recreational marijuana. Some spoke about their experience with pain or opioids. A few detailed their dealings with law enforcement and the damage that marijuana charges have done to them financially and personally.

Michael told the Capital-Star he was charged with a felony for possessing a quarter of an ounce of marijuana three years ago. He paid about $10,000 in legal fees and said he’s worried about accessing financial aid when he goes back to school.

“It still sticks with me. It makes life hard for me,” he said. “I didn’t harm anyone.”

Others said there were in favor of the revenue legal weed could bring in for the commonwealth. According to the Auditor General’s office, legalizing recreational marijuana could raise $581 million annually.

The handful of people who spoke to oppose recreational marijuana cited potential harm on children and shared anecdotes about negative experiences in Colorado, which legalized pot in 2012. One man said he was concerned about his granddaughter sharing the road with people who are under the influence.

The path to legal weed in Pa.

Fetterman supports legalizing recreational weed. Wolf, in the past, has not.

But in December, the governor said it was time for a “serious and honest look at recreational marijuana,” as neighboring New Jersey and New York move toward legalization. Wolf is a supporter of the state’s medical marijuana program.

In the House, Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny, has introduced a bill that would tax recreational marijuana and use the revenue to benefit education and affordable housing. Dozens of Democrats — but zero Republicans — have signed on to co-sponsor the legislation.

In the Senate, Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, and Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia, plan to introduce similar legislation soon.

Republican leaders, whose support is needed to advance any legislation, are currently opposed to legalizing marijuana. Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, has called the idea “reckless.”

Have your voice heard

Just one Dauphin County lawmaker appeared with Fetterman on Monday: Democrat Rep. Patty Kim. According to the lieutenant governor’s office, all representatives and senators from the county were invited to attend.

“I am open to hearing about any ideas that could offer recurring revenues,” Kim said.

Want your voice to be heard? Below are more announced tour dates. Check Fetterman’s Facebook page for future events.

You can also submit comments online.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Hey there just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a few of the pictures aren’t loading correctly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two different web browsers and both show the same results.

  2. Those who believe in limited government, personal responsibility, free markets, and individual liberty should embrace the ending of this irrational, un-American, fraudulently enacted cannabis prohibition. It should be the cornerstone of current GOP policy.

    Federal studies show about half of the U.S. population has tried cannabis, at least 15% use it regularly, over 80% of high school seniors have reported cannabis “easy to get” for decades. This prohibition, like alcohol prohibition has had little of its intended effect. In many cases cannabis prohibition makes cannabis usage problematic where it would not have been otherwise, be it light, moderate, or heavy usage. For the most part, cannabis prohibition only successfully prohibits effective regulation.

    A few issues created by prohibition: there are no quality controls to reduce contaminants (harmful pesticides, molds, fungus, other drugs), there is no practical way to prevent regular underage sales, billions in tax revenue are lost which can be used for all substance abuse treatment, underground markets for all drugs are empowered as a far more popular substance is placed within them expanding their reach and increasing their profits, criminal records make pursuing many decent careers difficult, police and court resources are unnecessarily tied up by pursuing and prosecuting victimless ‘crimes’, public mistrust and disrespect for our legal system, police, and government is increased, which is devastating our country.

    Prohibition is also very expensive, though, a cash cow for a number of powerful groups such as those related to law enforcement and the prison industry. These organizations have powerful lobbies and influence that perpetuate a failed drug policy through ignorance, fear, disinformation and misinformation. This ensures an endless supply of lucrative contracts, grants and subsidies from the government and its taxpayers to support their salaries, tools of the trade, ‘correctional’ services, and other expenses. Cash, property and other assets from civil forfeiture laws also significantly fatten their coffers while often violating civil rights.

    America was built on the principles of freedom and liberty. In some cases there are extreme circumstances that warrant intervention with criminal law. In the case of mind-altering drugs we have already set this precedent with alcohol. Cannabis is less harmful than alcohol to the consumer and especially to others. If we are to have justice, then the penalties for using, possessing and selling cannabis should be no worse than those of alcohol.

    A vote to end cannabis prohibition is a vote to condemn a costly prohibition that causes more harm than it prevents.

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