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Bipartisan Bill Hopes to Legalize Cannabis in PA

Recreational Marijuana

Could recreational cannabis be coming to your area soon?

If a pair of Pennsylvania legislators have their way, the answer is yes.

Reps. Aaron Kaufer (R-Luzerne) and Emily Kinkead (D-Allegheny) have joined forces and intend to introduce a comprehensive adult-use cannabis legalization bill that will prioritize pubic safety, consumer protection, social equity and criminal justice reform.

In their co-sponsorship memo, Kaufer and Kinkead wrote that their belief is that the time is right for Pennsylvania to move in a similar direction as its neighbor to the west – Ohio – and legalize the recreational use of marijuana and negate any efforts by the Buckeye State to capture PA dollars.

“This bill underscores our commitment to responsible regulation of the cannabis industry while addressing the diverse needs of Pennsylvania’s communities,” said Kaufer. “By prioritizing public safety and consumer protection, this legislation will build on the successful regulatory structure of the state’s medical cannabis program, continuing stringent standards for product quality, packaging and labeling to ensure the well-being of all consumers.”

“It is well past time for the Commonwealth to legalize cannabis for recreational use, address the injustices of the failed War on Drugs, and ensure that Pennsylvanians can benefit from this industry in the same way our neighboring states have,” said Kinkead. “Our bipartisan effort to provide specific language that takes the best practices from other states is the next substantial step in finally getting this done.”

Specifically, the bill:

  • Establishes parameters for an adult-use program under the Department of Agriculture;
  • Creates guardrails around the licensed sale and legal use of cannabis that will help eradicate the illicit market;
  • Provides support for small businesses to participate in the market, prioritizing rural, minority, female, and veteran-owned businesses in particular;
  • Establishes robust guidelines for the labeling, packaging, and advertising of products to ensure that products are not marketed to children and adolescents;
  • Implements a “clean slate” policy and criminal justice reforms for residents with cannabis-related convictions;
  • Provides funding and supports for law enforcement to enforce cannabis regulations;
  • Provides funding for local municipalities with cannabis businesses;
  • Leverages our agricultural infrastructure and supports local farmers;
  • Generates new revenue for the state and creates jobs.

Gov. Josh Shapiro has proposed marijuana legislation and its tax revenues as part of his $48.3B budget for FY25. Voters in all parties are warm to the idea, according to a recent Franklin & Marshall College poll, which saw 62 percent of respondents believing recreational cannabis should be legalized. And just about 1-in-2 favor (48%) selling legal marijuana through the state’s existing medical marijuana dispensaries than through state-run cannabis shops (29%).

The 220-page bill recognizes the potential of Pennsylvania’s agricultural sector, providing broad opportunities for farmers to participate in the legal cannabis market. It also aims to place a strong emphasis on social equity and criminal justice reform by creating opportunities for individuals disproportionately impacted by outdated cannabis policies. Through measures such as expungement of prior non-violent cannabis offenses and prioritizing licenses for small and minority-owned businesses, the legislation seeks to promote fairness and inclusivity within the industry.

For individuals, those 21 and older would be permitted to possess, consume, use, purchase, obtain or transport cannabis that is no more than 30 grams of cannabis flower, 1,000 mg of THC contained in cannabis-infused edible or nonedible products, or five grams of cannabis concentrate. Use would be permitted anywhere smoking is permitted.

Underage users would be subject to a written warning for the first offense, a fine of not more than $250 for a second offense, and not more than $500 for a third and each subsequent offense.

The bill calls for a sales tax of eight percent and the revenue would be deposited in a Cannabis Regulation Fund in the State Treasury. Ten percent of the revenue in the fund would be allocated to local police departments for enforcement and 5% to be used for indigent defense services.

With only a few session days remaining before the General Assembly’s summer recess and a budget to pass, it remains to be seen if this legislation will receive the attention its sponsors hope for. Then the question becomes whether legislators would be willing to take up the bill after Labor Day and prior to the November general election.

Any legislation that is not adopted by the end of the 2024 calendar year expires when the legislature’s two-year session ends in December. With Kaufer not seeking reelection, if Kinkead would return to the House in January, she would need another GOP counterpart for the bill to continue with bipartisan support.

4 Responses

  1. The advent of legalizing marijuana in PA during the run up to an election are as predictable as sunrise. This has been going on for so many years that I have completely lost track. There is a sector in PA politicians that absolutely does not want to see marijuana legalized in this state. They are stuck in the 1930’s when a fight over hemp caused marijuana to be demonized. Some of these politicians have never bothered to even become educated on the benefits of marijuana use. They do not care about the tax revenue that would be generated by legalization. When they need more revenue, they simply raise property taxes.

    I am much more concerned about alcohol than marijuana. People using marijuana do not commit property crimes. They are not usually involved in domestic violence incidents or other violent crimes. Alcohol on the other hand, seems to be highly correlated with these types of crimes, yet nobody would dare to think of banning alcohol.

    I am not a medical marijuana user and have never consumed the drug except for a short trial as a method of pain control for a physical illness with which I live. However, I am aware of its pain reliving properties, its ability to calm people living with anxiety and PTSD, its positive effect on glaucoma, its ability to stimulate appetite in people who live with illnesses where appetite loss is a feature. Besides all of these issues, there is the issue about personal liberty.

    As much as I am sure that marijuana will not be legalized during this election cycle, I still hold out hope that citizens of Pennsylvania may still, at some point have the opportunity to have access to this plant with so many, as yet, unexplored positive properties.

    1. Being From California where adult use cannabis has been in effect for many years, I can say that every point made it the article is absolutely correct. Cannabis is an agricultural product just like wine grapes. It should be treated the same.

  2. Excuse some of my typing errors!! The stupid autocorrect on my phone changes some of my words and I couldn’t figure out how to edit it!!

  3. It needs to be Legalized so people like me that need Medical Marijuana to live can still have a life, and work, and pay taxes, and not have our gun rights taking away when we are all law biding citizens!! My life’s pretty much over because I can’t use Marijuana for night terrors and sleep paralysis that had completely destroyed my life. The medical bill in Pennsylvania is a complete slap in the face and still keeps you from advancing in life because you can’t get a job that is actually worth anything because the stupid bill does nothing for real medical marijuana patients.. It’s pure Evil that PA Politicians keep killing Pennsylvanians and destroying people’s lives who need it to live.. if they ever had a real night terror they would know that it’s the closest thing you can come to living in the Nightmare on Elm Street movies!! It completely drains you of all your energy and makes it so all your motor skills are out of wack and you can barely walk or operate a motor vehicle!! I want my life back and legalization of Marijuana is the only hope I have. My life now is limited to sitting around completely drained and pretty much a zombie form crippling night terrors and sleep paralysis to where I have no life at all!! It’s wrong and Evil!!! Do the right thing and Legalize it so actual “REAL” Medical Marijuana patients aren’t treated like criminals and can actually use the medicine they need to where they can advance in life and pay their fair share of taxes. I don’t like where most of my Tax dollars would go, but as an American I want the ability to pay my fair share and work and get off of disgusting SSI!!!


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