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Pennsylvania Senate Democrats Push For Marijuana Legalization To Boost Revenue Amid Coronavirus

MARIJUANA MOMENT

Published 2 days ago  on July 9, 2020

By Kyle Jaeger

A majority of Pennsylvania Senate Democrats sent a letter to the governor and legislative leaders on Thursday, arguing that lawmakers should pursue adult-use marijuana legalization in order to generate revenue to make up for losses resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

The letter, led by Sen. Sharif Street (D), stresses that the state’s economic situation is “dire” and that the government “should do absolutely everything we can to raise revenue.”

“That is why we come together as a committed group of Pennsylvania Senators to urge our leaders to take up the bi-partisan issue of adult-use cannabis legalization,” they wrote.

Street and the other 14 senators made a series of arguments in favor of approving comprehensive cannabis reform. They talked about the issue’s increasing bipartisan support, for example. A recent poll found that almost two-thirds of Pennsylvanians support recreational legalization, and that includes majorities of those who identify as conservative, moderate and liberal.

A majority of Pennsylvania Senate Democrats sent a letter to the governor and legislative leaders on Thursday, arguing that lawmakers should pursue adult-use marijuana legalization in order to generate revenue to make up for losses resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.

The letter, led by Sen. Sharif Street (D), stresses that the state’s economic situation is “dire” and that the government “should do absolutely everything we can to raise revenue.”

“That is why we come together as a committed group of Pennsylvania Senators to urge our leaders to take up the bi-partisan issue of adult-use cannabis legalization,” they wrote.

Street and the other 14 senators made a series of arguments in favor of approving comprehensive cannabis reform. They talked about the issue’s increasing bipartisan support, for example. A recent poll found that almost two-thirds of Pennsylvanians support recreational legalization, and that includes majorities of those who identify as conservative, moderate and liberal,

They also emphasized the need to avoid raising taxes on Pennsylvanians or making budget cuts as well as the potential boon to the job market that legalization could represent.

“We need to ensure our spending on healthcare, education, housing, and small businesses continues unabated throughout this crisis,” the letter states. “Legalizing adult-use cannabis will raise revenue and help mitigate the possible need for cuts, and additionally can serve as a revenue saving tool in agencies such as the Department of Corrections.”

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview on Thursday that “there’s never been a more appropriate time to have this conversation.”

“I’ve been saying this now since the pandemic started. I’ve never understood why it wasn’t always a top Democratic priority along with the other ones,” he said. “It hits on every cylinder. You have the criminal justice reform aspect, you have the economic development reform aspect, jobs, revenue. I mean, there’s so many different things that this can bring. And now that we’re in the height of a pandemic with record unemployment and record budget deficits.”

The senators also highlighted racial disparities in marijuana enforcement, noting that black Americans are significantly more likely to be arrested for a cannabis offense compared to white people despite similar rates of consumption. They are also more likely to serve longer sentences.

“This is damaging to communities and families and a waste of valuable resources,” they wrote. “Legalizing adult use cannabis will not only save the Commonwealth money but will bring much needed justice to those who have suffered the most under the impact of prohibition.”

The letter goes on to say that an adult-use market—which is estimated to bring in about $581 million in tax revenue annually—could be modeled after the state’s existing medical cannabis program. That revenue is “no small sum and would be instrumental as we navigate this hundred-year crisis.”

“Once again, the single most important goal we should have right now is ensuring we can continue to provide for the communities of Pennsylvania,” they concluded. “Through legalizing adult-use cannabis, we can protect Pennsylvanians from harmful tax hikes and spending cuts and raise new revenue to continue providing vital services and assistance for our constituents. We urge you to consider this issue during this year’s budget negotiations, and work with us to enact a responsible budget that will benefit all Pennsylvanians.”

Prior to state shelter-in-place and social distancing mandates, Rep. Jake Wheatley (D) announced that he would be introducing a revised legalization bill for the session. The lawmaker, who filed a similar bill last year, wrote that his proposal will be “the most comprehensive and well-vetted legislation providing for a legal adult-use cannabis industry.” It would also provide for expungements and releasing people from prison for non-violent drug offenses.

While Gov. Tom Wolf (D) initially opposed adult-use legalization, he came out in support of the policy change last year. That shift came after Fetterman, a major ally of the reform movement, led a statewide listening tour last year to solicit public input on the issue.

This story has been updated to include comments from Fetterman.

Read the letter from Pennsylvania Senate Democrats on marijuana reform below: 

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Israel Decriminalizes Adult Use Cannabis During CannaTech Conference In Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv, Israel — New Israeli laws regarding cannabis decriminalize possession of the plant and its buds. In accordance of the new laws, the possession of a home grown marijuana plant is no longer punishable by law. Civilians found to be carrying small amounts of cannabis in public without medical authorization will now face fines rather than be subjected to criminal proceedings.

Israel decriminalized adult use on April 1. On the same day, former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak was a keynote speaker at the fourth annual CannaTech conference in Tel Aviv.

Barak, who incidentally is currently chairman of the Israeli medical cannabis company Canndoc/Intercure, spoke about the benefits of medical marijuana, quipping that Israel is updating its motto, becoming “the land of milk, honey and cannabis.”

The former prime minister’s involvement highlights yet another career politician who has made the shift from cannabis prohibitionist to proponent ala Former U.S. Speaker of the House, John Boehner. Barak lends his voice to the significant global chorus of former government leaders, Such as Mexico’s former president Vicente Fox, who are calling for a change in perception of how the world currently views cannabis.

“Some 35 countries have already legalized cannabis to a certain extent, either for medical or sometimes even recreational use,” Barak said during his keynote. “Two-thirds of U.S. states have approved medical cannabis; one-third [have approved] recreational use.”

With the typical alpha-male machoness one expects from a decorated former member of the military, Barak asserts, “The future of cannabis belongs to the bigger, faster and more assertive players which will enter directly into the markets.”

The Israeli Parliament (the “Knesset”), passed the 16th amendment to Dangerous Drugs Ordinance on December 25, of last year, that concerns the governance and regulatory aspects of exporting medical cannabis from Israel. Subsequently, Israel is poised to be a top-earning, global hub in the marijuana market.

The Israeli cannabis industry is already among the “more assertive players”, with companies like Tikun Olam —Hebrew for “repair the world”— at the forefront, with a 40% market share.

“If one is to look at a county that is at the forefront of the cannabis industry, they need to consider Israel at the top of their list. From the early discoveries from Dr. Mechoulam to the significant work in identifying the endocannabinoid system, Israel has been leading the path for some of the most significant advancements in cannabis science. As the first nation to legalize medical cannabis over a decade ago, Israel has allowed companies like Tikun Olam, as well as medical, research and educational institutions, to undertake the groundbreaking research that has created the basis for some of the advancements in this fast-growing industry,” said Stephen Gardner, Chief Marketing Officer of Tikun Olam, USA.

Meanwhile, according to Israel’s Ministry of Health, over 550 farms have submitted requests for licenses to grow medical cannabis in anticipation of new guidelines that will allow more Israeli patients to purchase pot at pharmacies with a prescription from a physician. Medical marijuana is currently available to patients who suffer from Parkinson’s, epilepsy, cancer and other terminal illnesses.

The new laws were delayed past the initial roll out on April 1, but are expected to go into effect, imminently.

-Forbes