Three separate proposals are planned by Pennsylvania lawmakers seeking to legalize recreational marijuana, provide social justice to those with low-level marijuana convictions and reap the tax benefits from a potential billion-dollar industry.
Two co-sponsorship memos circulating in the House and Senate propose selling marijuana in state-owned liquor stores, restricting possession and use to adults at least 21 years of age.
The memos respectively filed by state Rep. David Delloso, D-Delaware, and state Sen. Marty Flynn, D-Lackawanna/Lehigh, would also permit Pennsylvanians to cultivate and process up to six plants for personal use.
Mandating sales through the state system would give the commonwealth a monopoly over liquor and marijuana sales and align the industry with union labor. Both Delloso and Flynn receive strong union support, campaign finance records show.
“Using the existing state store system will not only ensure the safety and integrity of cannabis sales in the Commonwealth, but also will prevent large, out-of-state corporations from dominating the industry. This will ensure that profits remain in the Commonwealth, and that those profits will not supersede the well-being of our communities,” Flynn wrote.
The third memo co-authored by state Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Allegheny, and state Rep. Donna Bullock, D-Philadelphia, doesn’t propose sales through the state liquor system. It does target five central goals: Consumer safety, social justice, economic equity, substance abuse prevention and revenue.
“It’s time to regulate and tax this major crop product in service of the health and well-being of Pennsylvanians,” Frankel and Bullock wrote in the memo.
All three memos, in fact, stress social justice. While specific legislative details are fewer in the memo from Frankel and Bullock, the memos from Delloso and Flynn each propose expunging low-level marijuana crimes.
Sales of legal medical marijuana began in Pennsylvania in 2018, resulting in $6.3 billion in total sales as of November.
Dispensary sales were estimated at $1.4 billion for the 12-month period that ended in October, according to data from the state Medical Marijuana Advisory Board. There were 423,443 patients with active certifications.
In Pennsylvania, growers/processors pay a 5% gross receipts tax on sales to dispensaries. The current state budget estimates gross receipts at $41.8 million in the upcoming fiscal year. Patients don’t pay a sales tax on purchases.
Former Auditor General Eugene DePasquale in 2018 estimated the market size of the recreational industry in Pennsylvania at $1.66 billion. During budget hearings in 2021, Matthew Knittel, director of the Pennsylvania Independent Fiscal Office estimated potential tax revenue between $500 million and $700 million.
Adult-use marijuana is legal in 21 states including Pennsylvania’s neighbors Maryland, New Jersey and New York. The substance remains illegal under federal law.
Two marijuana industry experts valued Pennsylvania’s annual illegal trade at between $3 billion and $4 billion during state Senate hearings on legalization held last year.
None of the three memos have yet resulted in a formal legislative proposal.
For Delloso, it would mark the third consecutive session he’s proposed legalization. His most recent bill, House Bill 1180, was introduced in April 2021.
It proposed the legal age at 21, and detailed potential regulations for production, sales, possession, and criminal record expungement. It did not seek to impact impaired driving laws. It did look to guarantee protection for workers by barring positive drug tests at non-intoxicating levels as the basis for being fired.
The bill was referred to the House Liquor Control Committee and remained stuck for the remainder of the session.
That was under a Republican majority. There’s broader support for legalization among Democrats. Even if marijuana-friendly legislation cleared the House, and there’s no certainty the votes are there, it would face a long shot in the state Senate where Republican opposition is evident. (Full Story)