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Will Recreational Marijuana Be Coming Soon to PA?

Now that the state of New Jersey has legalized recreational marijuana, how long will it be before Pennsylvania follows suit?

While millions of Pennsylvanians now have access to legal recreational weed available just across the bridge in the Garden State, users could also get in big trouble for carrying that weed across state lines or driving while intoxicated on cannabis.

The Keystone State does permit the use of marijuana for medical reasons. A license can be obtained with a note from a doctor to alleviate conditions such as anxiety, autism, cancer, epilepsy, post-traumatic stress disorder, and chronic pain. Pennsylvania law also allows for the sale of products labeled as CBD and containing THC, the chemical which gives marijuana its psychoactive effects.

New Jersey has approved 13 medical dispensaries located throughout the state to sell adult-use marijuana. New York state is expected to begin recreational sales sometime in 2023, joining 17 other states and the District of Columbia. 

Industry executives and analysts expect the market will exceed $2 billion – that’s with a “B” – within years. Gov. Phil Murphy’s proposed budget anticipates $121 million in cannabis revenue, mostly from taxes and fees, in fiscal year 2023.

Where does that leave Pennsylvania?

In a recent Emerson College poll, 48.5 percent of the respondents think pot should be legalized in the Keystone State.

Among Democratic primary voters, 62 percent support recreational legalization of marijuana. Over half of independent voters agreed with their Dem counterparts.

So what’s the holdup?

Pennsylvania has never been first in line to adopt a controversial policy such as this. Even the online gaming decision came after surrounding states such as Delaware (2012), Nevada (2013), and New Jersey (2013) put laws in place first.

Even when Act 42 was passed in 2017, it still took two years for the Keystone State to turn on the spigots. 

While one can debate whether the correct decision was made, Pennsylvania’s coffers are certainly fuller, as PA’s sportsbooks handled $714.96 million in wagers during the month of March for $48.51 million in revenue. That’s more than double the amount Pennsylvania received in February.

“Pennsylvania online casinos grew faster in its first two years than most of us imagined,” said Dustin Gouker, a betting analyst who oversees “Pennsylvania had some advantages, including operators benefiting from the years of experience and learnings from New Jersey.”

Can recreational cannabis sales follow a similar path?

Last October, state Senator Dan Laughlin (R-Beaver) introduced a bill (SB 473) to legalize marijuana for recreational uses and set up a cannabis control board. It was referred to the Law and Justice committee, chaired by Mike Regan (R-York), who has recently signaled that things could change soon.

“We have the opportunity to build off of our current medical marijuana program that has proven (it) can be grown and sold responsibly in Pennsylvania,” said Regan in a press release. 

He pointed to a recent poll that asked if respondents believe it is better to maintain the illicit market status quo or to legalize, regulate and tax recreational use of cannabis.

“Over 90 percent agreed that … the logical choice was to legalize, regulate and tax adult-use cannabis,” he wrote. “Ninety percent. In this day and age, that’s as close to consensus as we come.”

“We have an opportunity to expand job creation, expand investment, and provide the state with some revenue, all the while decreasing costs for law enforcement and really correcting a lot of the wrongs that have been experienced by Pennsylvanians because of the war on drugs,” said Meredith Buettner, the executive director for the Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition.

Not all are on the adoption train.

“What we should be talking about is the health and safety of Pennsylvania’s children, Pennsylvania families [and] the next generation,” said Dan Bartkowiak, the director of communications for the Pennsylvania Family Institute. “If that’s our priority, it shouldn’t matter whatever revenue numbers are projected. We want to help and keep Pennsylvania families safe.”

Could the bill be coming out of committee soon? In theory, just a handful of GOP members of the General Assembly would be needed to pass the bill. Regan noted that Republican leaders want a “majority of the majority” – meaning a majority of the GOP to ensure bipartisan support before they’ll even schedule a vote.

Regan speculates that if all goes well, legalization could happen by June 30.


11 Responses

  1. Now is the time to legalize marijuana in PA it should have been legalized a long time ago the laws against marijuana right now are outdated and barbaric and racist more colored people are in jail because of marijuana then white people that’s not okay. Alcohol cigarettes opioids cause more death and destruction than anything in our state Marijuana could heal our state. Unfortunately though so much incorrect and bad information has been fed into the mines of people about marijuana that everyone always assumes that this is a bad drug crack cocaine heroin those are bad drugs marijuana is a plant marijuana is medicine. If everyone would take the time to do their own research and actually learn about marijuana they would see that this is not a bad thing this is a good thing your children can’t get a hold of alcohol your children can get a hold of cigarettes your children can get a hold of your medicine your children can get a whole of a spray can of paint and get high off of that and that’s dangerous and these are things that are in your house right now so if you’re okay with this dangerous things being around your children why are you so hell bad I’m keeping marijuana out of the house if you’re not going to smoke it you’re not going to buy it for them then they should have no way of getting a hold of it so just because you don’t want to smoke it doesn’t mean you should stop millions of other people from wanting it or needing it.

    1. Just to clear things up,would it be fair if there were more white people in jail for weed then black people? That’s the only ignorant part about alot of y’all…you wanna help black people then do it,you don’t gotta try to bring white people down while you do it though,kind of defeats the purpose of equality.

    1. Marijuana is a plant a plant that your good put here a plant that can be used to save live but you call it the devil?
      Alcohol has caused death and destruction but your ok with that cigarettes cause cancer but your ok with that…. So who’s the real devil here?

  2. Back at Tuesday’s debate on PCN for the Republican Gubernatorial primary, I was deeply disturbed at what Charlie Gerow said about his support for recreational marijuana. I will never support a candidate that legalizes recreational marijuana.

    1. Good for him. Literally every GOP candidate for governor promotes “freedom” as a core value but only Gerow follows through and backs that’s up with action.

      Marijuana prohibition is bad policy. It’s UnAmerican and it doesn’t work. It destroys lives and wastes resources. It’s amazing people don’t see it.

      1. People are buying it in large numbers in pa, illegally now that jersey has legalized it people are going to take risks and go across the bridge to do what they already have been doing responsibly. By not legalizing it it will be more of a problem than it is than if you just legalize it your either gonna indulge or not most people who are against it have never indulged in it. Plus by legalizing it people can experiment with the strains that are suitable for them instead of by underground weed that they have no information about.

    2. Why??? You’re okay with alcohol being legal alcohol causes death and destruction. No one’s ever got high and beat the s*** out of their partner or gotten in a car and killed someone no drunk people do that but you’re okay with alcohol smoking marijuana doesn’t cause cancer it actually helps prevent it you got no problem with cigarettes being legal and that causes cancer opioids are prescribed by doctors and they’re causing More death than anything weed doesn’t do that weed would help with depression anxiety arthritis seizures it’s a medicine I don’t understand how you don’t know how to do your own research are you really a just a mindless drone who’s okay with being told bad information instead of taking the time to do your own research you have a phone you have Google it’s not that hard… If you’re okay with alcohol if you’re okay with cigarettes if you’re okay with opioids being passed out to people on a daily basis then you are just a part of the death and destruction that happens in our world you should not have any decision on a process that would help heal our world and if you can’t see that then you are the problem… And don’t bring your children in it if your children are smoking weed then maybe you should get your fat ass off of the sofa and actually watch your own kids stop blaming others for you being a bad parent if you don’t want kids smoking actually watch the kids it’s not that difficult

  3. I’m not nuts about raising revenue from expanding drug sales but it looks like an unstoppable force. Is reality that bad that we need to be intoxicated as a way to handle things?

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