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Pennsylvania Governor calls for recreational cannabis legalization to boost the economy during COVID-19 pandemic

Governor Tom Wolf

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has called on lawmakers to legalize recreational cannabis in a bid to boost economic recovery during the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Assisting small businesses

Speaking during a press conference on COVID-19 recovery, the governor said the proceeds from the cannabis industry would go towards small business grant funding. Individuals who hit hard by the pandemic would also benefit from the proceeds. 

Part of the press release from the Governor’s office reads:

Fifty percent of the funding would be earmarked for historically disadvantaged businesses. Along with the call to the General Assembly to pass legislation legalizing the sale and use of recreational marijuana, the governor proposes that a portion of the revenue be used to further restorative justice programs that give priority to repairing the harm done to crime victims and communities as a result of marijuana criminalization.

Criminal justice reform 

Additionally, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf called on the General Assembly to track criminal justice reform policies that bring back justice for individuals convicted of marijuana-related offences. He is also suggesting additional hazard pay for workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

$225 million to increase hazard pay to Pennsylvania workers, using the overall structure of the current PA Hazard Pay Grant Program administered through the Department of Community and Economic Development. This funding would cover a $3.00/hour increase for 208,000 frontline workers across the commonwealth, the press release said.

The Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf is also drumming financial support for small businesses, childcare needs, protective equipment, and utility shut-offs. This announcement comes at a time when Vermont lawmakers, both in the House and Senate, are poised to clear a major expansion of marijuana expungement laws. The leaders in both wings agree to support a measure that would automatically expunge the criminal records of persons convicted of possessing two ounces or less of the substance. 

It also aims to decriminalize possession of up to two ounces of the drug. Currently, people are allowed to possess only up to one ounce. According to Bennington Senator Dick Sears (D), passing the expungement policy in the coming weeks, as the Legislature reconvenes for a special budget session, is a priority.

Moretown Representative Maxine Grad (D), who is also the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said she’s set to move forward with the proposal, considering that people of colour have been disproportionately impacted by marijuana charges. 

Criminal records are a barrier to employment, serving in the military, student loans, housing, and it’s very important to help folks with these criminal records get justice and clean their records, Grad noted.

Many other lawmakers have supported the move including House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D).

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