Pennsylvania governor pushing for marijuana legalization in 2021

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Marijuana legalization is among the priorities that Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf plans to pursue in 2021, the Democrat announced Thursday, albeit facing likely opposition from the GOP-led state legislature.

Ahead of his upcoming annual budget address Tuesday, Mr. Wolf presented a preview of his legislative agenda that includes legalizing marijuana among the governor’s main goals for this year.

“To get Pennsylvania back on track from the disruptions that this pandemic is causing, we need to make major, major targeted investments to strengthen our economy, to support workers and small businesses, to rebuild our infrastructure and to help do everything we can to help all Pennsylvanians build a path to financial security,” Mr. Wolf said during a press conference announcing his legislative agenda.

Marijuana is illegal under federal law, but most states have passed legislation allowing it to be used for medicinal or recreational purposes. A growing number are legalizing retail sales, as well.

The Keystone State is currently among the more than 30 states to have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana, and its governor came out in 2019 in support of legalizing recreational use for adults.

Republican leadership in the Pennsylvania state legislature has been hesitant to agree, however.

“There is just not the support in the caucus for legalizing marijuana right now,” a spokesman for state House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff told the Capital-Star roughly four months ago.

In an outline it released of the governor’s agenda, Mr. Wolf’s office noted that support for marijuana legalization exists outside the GOP-controlled legislature, including neighboring states.

“Now as our neighbors move toward legalizing recreational marijuana, Pennsylvania cannot afford to be left behind,” reads part of the legislative agenda released by the governor’s office.

“Legalizing adult-use cannabis has strong bipartisan support among Pennsylvanians. The revenue generated from legalization will be used to support historically disadvantaged small businesses through grant funding and provide them the assistance they need to build back from the economic crisis and strengthen our economy. Additionally, a portion of the revenue will support restorative justice programs to help the individuals and communities that have been adversely harmed by the criminalization of marijuana,” it said.

New Jersey voted in November to legalize marijuana, and the Garden State in the process of planning for establishing a system for taxing and selling retail cannabis.

Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a proposal to tax and sell marijuana within the Empire State earlier this month, meanwhile.

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