After a historic midterm election, the road to legalization in Pennsylvania is clearer than ever before. Now that the democrats can officially declare a victory in the state House, the likelihood of adult-use cannabis legalization has increased by magnitudes. The question now is: what will it look like, and when will it happen?
The New Democratic Majority In the House Likely Means PA Will Pass Adult-Use In 2023
The new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives will likely mean that Pennsylvania will pass adult-use legalization in 2023. We’re not saying it’s a done deal, but it is more likely to happen.
The new Congress will have more Democrats than Republicans and is generally expected to be more progressive than the last one. This means that there could be support for progressive legislation like cannabis legalization in Pennsylvania.
According to Marijuana Moment, “The hope for advocates is that the newly Democratic House could partner with Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro (D), who currently serves as the state’s attorney general, to push for legalization in the 2023 session and ramp up pressure on the Senate to not stand in the way of a reform that polls show is broadly supported by the state’s voters.”
New York And New Jersey Approve Adult-Use
While Pennsylvania was the first state to license medical cannabis, New York and New Jersey were the first two states to legalize adult-use marijuana. Since then, those two states have been way ahead of Pennsylvania in terms of access to adult-use marijuana.
Medical cannabis has been legal in New Jersey and New York since 2010 and 2014, respectively. While Pennsylvania followed not long after, in 2016, they have quickly fallen behind in terms of legalizing adult-use cannabis. New Jersey began selling recreational cannabis in April of this year, and while there is still no recreational cannabis legally for sale in New York, the process for adult-use legalization in New York began in early 2022. Not to mention that a growing gray market in the state and sales on Native American reservations are part of the growing consensus that adult-use cannabis is around the corner in the empire state.
The truth is that there are a lot of reasons why Pennsylvania’s legalization efforts have been slow. First, although the state’s Republican Tim Wolf signed the medical cannabis bill into law in 2016 and has shown support for legalization, the House being controlled by republicans who are largely against recreational use has been a major obstacle.
Second, Pennsylvania has a strict process for amending the state constitution. It takes two separate votes in two consecutive legislative sessions before voters can weigh in on the issue. And third, it’s hard for lawmakers to get behind something that could be perceived as controversial when their constituents may not support it – although that issue has seen widespread change as voter polls clearly show support for legalization.
As we move into 2023, it’s possible that New York’s and New Jersey’s approval of legal sales will give other politicians more confidence about moving forward with their own legalization efforts.
But for now, there are signs that Pennsylvania’s legalization efforts may finally be gaining momentum, mainly fueled by the recent midterm results.
Pennsylvania Could Lose Out
The legalization of adult-use cannabis in New York and New Jersey means that Pennsylvania could be permanently left behind if it doesn’t act soon. Both states have already passed adult-use cannabis programs, with New Jersey already starting sales in early 2022 and New York gearing up to do so in the very near future. With those two states now ahead of Pennsylvania in terms of access to legal adult-use cannabis, many are wondering whether or not Pennsylvania will ever legalize recreational marijuana.
Governor-elect Josh Shapiro (D) says yes, promising in a Twitter post earlier this year that he would legalize it and that “It’s going to bring billions of dollars to Pennsylvania.” His recent role as attorney general makes him an excellent partner for the Democratic House in order to advance the legalization efforts.
And the sooner, the better, because it will mean good news for both consumers and businesses alike: Consumers will finally have access to a variety of quality products at reasonable prices; businesses can start making plans, so they’re prepared when regulations go into effect.
Will PA Marijuana Legalization Pass?
You may have been wondering: will the bill pass? Well, it’s hard to say with certainty at this point.
The way the PA Legislature works is that bills are submitted in February, and then they get assigned to committees for review. Bills are then voted on by both chambers (the House of Representatives and Senate) before making it to the governor’s desk. If a bill passes, it becomes law within 90 days of being signed by the governor or 120 days if he vetoes it and legislators vote to override his decision. If it doesn’t pass by then, it dies out completely.
This newly-elected Democratic House will therefore need to act quickly to make up for lost time as NY and NJ have made tremendous strides toward adult-use cannabis. Depending on who serves in the Senate GOP leadership, there is some hope that support from republican senators like Sens. Mike Regan and Dan Laughlin, who have previously voiced their support for legalization, could serve to advance the cause.
There are many reasons to be optimistic about the future of adult-use cannabis legislation in Pennsylvania. The Democrats’ historic win in the House gives them control of committees that will oversee marijuana bills, which could make it easier for legislators from both sides of the aisle to get on board with legalization. It also means that there are more lawmakers who support legalization than ever before – a huge shift from just a few years ago when Republicans were blocking all efforts at reform! As we wait patiently for PA lawmakers to consider their options and make their decisions, we’ll keep our hopes up that the tide could finally be turning in the Keystone state.
Enjoyed that first hit? Come chill with us every week at the Friday Sesh for a freshly packed bowl of the week’s best cannabis news!