Le­gal­ize it, Wolf tells Leg­is­la­ture

‘Penn­syl­va­nia is ready for this,’ says gover­nor, but GOP House lead­ers have ‘no plans or in­ter­est’

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - By Marc Levy

Penn­syl­va­nia Gov. Tom Wolf is now in fa­vor of le­gal­iz­ing mar­i­juana for recre­ational use, say­ing Wed­nes­day that most of the state’s res­i­dents sup­port it and that the state has a wealth of knowl­edge from the ex­pe­ri­ence in other states to guide it.

Wolf, a sec­ond-term Demo­crat, pack­aged his an­nounce­ment with a call to the Repub­li­can-con­trolled Leg­is­la­ture to de­crim­i­nal­ize small amounts of mar­i­juana and al­low the ex­punge­ment of past con­vic­tions of non­vi­o­lent and small mar­i­juana-re­lated crimes.

“I think it’s time for the Gen­eral Assem­bly to sit down and craft a bill that ac­tu­ally rec­og­nizes that Penn­syl­va­nia is ready for this, and also takes ad­van­tage of what we’ve

learned from other states in terms of what to do and what not to do,” Wolf told a news con­fer­ence in his Capi­tol of­fices.

Push­back from the Leg­is­la­ture’s top Repub­li­cans was force­ful and quick Wed­nes­day, as it has been in the past to the gover­nor’s over­tures on mar­i­juana.

“Our cau­cus has no plans or in­ter­est in le­gal­iz­ing recre­ational mar­i­juana,” the House’s Repub­li­can lead­er­ship said in a joint state­ment.

Eleven states have ap­proved the le­gal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana for recre­ational use, al­though only two state leg­is­la­tures, in Ver­mont and Illinois, have passed bills to le­gal­ize mar­i­juana, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Con­fer­ence of State Leg­is­la­tures. Oth­er­wise, vot­ers in the other states le­gal­ized mar­i­juana through ref­er­en­dum, an av­enue that Penn­syl­va­nia law does not al­low.

Wolf’s an­nounce­ment ad­vances his po­si­tion from last De­cem­ber, when he sig­naled that he was open to tak­ing a look at it as it gath­ered pop­u­lar­ity and mo­men­tum, in par­tic­u­lar in bor­der­ing New Jersey and New York.

Be­fore last win­ter, Wolf had dis­missed the idea.

Still, Wolf has long sup­ported de­crim­i­nal­iz­ing the pos­ses­sion of small amounts of mar­i­juana, al­though the Leg­is­la­ture hasn’t even se­ri­ously con­sid­ered leg­is­la­tion to that effect, and he signed leg­is­la­tion in 2016 cre­at­ing Penn­syl­va­nia’s med­i­cal mar­i­juana pro­gram.

Pub­lic opinion polls in Penn­syl­va­nia have shown a ma­jor­ity of those asked were in fa­vor of le­gal­iz­ing mar­i­juana, as did a re­port re­leased Wed­nes­day from Lt. Gov. John Fet­ter­man’s statewide lis­ten­ing tour on le­gal­iz­ing mar­i­juana.

MATT ROURKE/AP

Penn­syl­va­nia Gov. Tom Wolf

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