In an effort to ameliorate Pennsylvania’s economic contractions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, State Sen. Sharif Street (D) issued a letter to Gov. Tom Wolf on July 9, urging for the consideration of adult-use cannabis legalization during this year’s budget negotiations.
Co-signed by 14 Democratic senators, the letter advocated that new revenue from legalization is a preferable alternative to issuing broad-based taxes and spending cuts; and legalization will bring justice to those affected by cannabis-related offenses, which "disproportionally fall on our black and brown citizens," the letter stated.
“We are amid a historic crisis, and we should be doing everything possible to avoid raising taxes that could have far seen and unintended consequences on so many of our communities who are struggling to get by right now,” according to the letter. CBS Pittsburgh reports the state's deficit is $3.2 billion.
The senators make the case that legalization would have positive impacts on other industries, including the agriculture sector, and create cannabis-related jobs in the state. The letter cited a report from the Auditor General which showed legalization would raise “$581 million per year through taxation and regulation,” and argued that “Pennsylvanians deserve to be involved in this growing industry and the Commonwealth will reap the rewards of our participation.”
“It’s something the majority of Pennsylvanians support and it’s something that legislators have had some time to think about and attitudes have evolved in quite a bit,” Street said in an interview with Cannabis Business Times and Cannabis Dispensary.
Gov. Wolf has publicly shown support for adult-use legalization; however, leadership in the Republican-run legislative chambers have stalled efforts, including Street’s legislative proposal—Senate Bill 350—which also places a focus on social equity and small business development.
“I think those efforts stalled because didn’t people feel the pressure of an economic [hole] or needing to come up with new revenue,” Street said to CBT & CD. “I think it wasn’t anticipated by some that we might be in a place where we’re going to need new revenue sources … The situation we now find ourselves in with respect to our budget is probably significantly more acute than anybody had anticipated.”
The letter also touts the popularity of Pennsylvania’s current medical cannabis program as a model, which saw a 500% increase in sales in its second year, translating to millions of dollars in tax revenue. “We know medical marijuana works, we know medical marijuana raises revenues, and we know adult-use cannabis will as well,” the letter stated.
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