PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A multi-billion dollar shortfall in Pennsylvania’s budget has the governor thinking of a bold way to get more tax revenue, including legalizing recreational marijuana. The commonwealth is facing a $4.6 billion shortfall in its current budget.
But Gov. Tom Wolf believes tax revenue generated from recreational marijuana would help fill the gap.
Wolf is urging Pennsylvania lawmakers to legalize recreational marijuana, arguing the tax money it would generate could help prop up businesses that have been hit hard because of the pandemic.
“With the extra funding from recreational marijuana legalization, we could actually do things that have to be done,” Wolf said.
Wolf says legalizing recreational marijuana would help fund some $90 million in grants and loans for small businesses. Some Republicans say they would support a bill, including state Sen. Tom Killion, of Delaware County.
“We’ve been looking at the criminal justice issues in a bipartisan way,” Killion said.
But Killion would like to see certain stipulations, like expunging the records of those who were previously convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana.
“Because of that, it’s greatly affected their lives. There should be some expungement process,” Killion said.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney says it’s about time there’s been serious discussion about legalizing recreational marijuana to help plug the state’s deficit.
“There’s no reason why recreational marijuana should not be in the same category as vodka and gin and whiskey,” Kenney said.
But Dr. Matthew Roman, of Nature’s Way Medicine in Old City, says Gov. Wolf should go a step further.
“If he really wants to help patients, and if he wants to help the public, he would allow people to grow marijuana for themselves. But the state has sold over $1 billion in marijuana since February so he’s going to make a lot of money if he makes it go recreational,” Roman said.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said he agrees with Wolf. Murphy is calling on voters in the Garden State to take this issue up in November.
Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Republican House Majority Leader says Wolf’s proposals “require taxpayers to bail Wolf out of his unilateral mandates that have devastated their lives and livelihoods.”
The Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition (PCC) applauds Wolf’s call for the legalization of cannabis in an effort to address the Commonwealth’s budget problem.
“We agree with Gov. Wolf that it is time to address the legalization of marijuana in Pennsylvania. By creating a well-regulated adult-use market we can help address the budget gap, create family-sustaining jobs and reduce the illicit drug market in the Commonwealth” said PCC President Bob Pease.