Citing the facts that Pennsylvania (i) is bordered almost entirely by states that have legalized cannabis for adult use; (ii) loses millions to the black market for cannabis annually; and (iii) projects hundreds of millions in annual revenue gains, in his budget address for 2024 Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro called on Pennsylvania’s legislature to deliver by July 1, 2024, legislation that would legalize cannabis for adult-use in Pennsylvania:
“Well, last year, 57 percent of voters in Ohio supported an initiative to legalize recreational marijuana. And now, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland – practically all of our neighbors – have legalized marijuana. We’re losing out on an industry that, once fully implemented, would bring in more than 250 million dollars in annual revenue. And our failure to legalize and regulate this only fuels the black market and drains much needed resources for law enforcement. It’s time to catch up. I ask you to come together and send to my desk a bill that legalizes marijuana. But that bill should ensure the industry is regulated and taxed responsibly. That we create jobs and build wealth here in Pennsylvania, especially in the communities that have been disproportionately harmed by criminalization. And that those who have been convicted for nonviolent possession of small amounts of marijuana have their records expunged. Let’s stop hamstringing ourselves and start competing.”
Governor Shapiro’s urgency is not surprising. Pennsylvania should have been leading the way in legalizing cannabis for adult-use, given its successful medical marijuana program, but instead other states have spring-boarded ahead of Pennsylvania. Those states are now enjoying the revenues, job growth and overall economic benefits of legal cannabis, including even profiting from Pennsylvania residents crossing the border to buy their cannabis. It truly is time for Pennsylvania “to catch up” and “start competing” in the legal cannabis market for the good of all Pennsylvanians.