With a state legislative session spanning almost an entire calendar year, supporters of marijuana law reform efforts in Pennsylvania are working overtime to make sure their voices are heard. That’s why members of Lehigh Valley NORML, Pittsburgh NORML, Lancaster NORML and Philly NORML are teaming up with the Keystone Cannabis Coalition and ACLU of Pennsylvania for rally and lobby day next week in the state’s capital of Harrisburg.
“Marijuana activists in Pennsylvania are poised to introduce an aggressive agenda for reform in 2019 when they fill the Capitol Rotunda at 10am on Monday, September 24,” said Jeff Riedy, Executive Director of Lehigh Valley NORML. “With cannabis arrest counts rising across the state and neighboring states threatening legalization, the time is right for this discussion in Pennsylvania.”
But activists in the Keystone State have come a very long way in just a short amount of time.
In late 2014 Philadelphia’s city council decriminalized simple possession of marijuana. Little did they know, their decision would trigger a wave of municipalities across the Commonwealth to adopt similar measures. In the years following, local lawmakers in Pittsburgh, State College, Harrisburg, York, Erie, and most recently, Bethlehem followed suit.
These local victories were celebrated not just by advocates, but also the Commonwealth’s Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, who shared the following statement:
“Decriminalization saves millions of dollars spent yearly on marijuana prosecutions. Decriminalization also has human benefits by reducing the loss of income and other social, personal and emotional impacts on those arrested for simply possessing a small amount of marijuana.”
Full statement here: https://bit.ly/2NvfopR
Following the flurry of local marijuana law reform victories across the Commonwealth, lawmakers in Harrisburg passed SB 3: The Medical Marijuana Act in 2015 which was later signed into law by Governor Wolf in early 2016. Passage of the law established rules and regulations for the state’s medical marijuana program which permits registered patients to access cannabis oils, pills and tinctures, but due to a restriction against smoking, the availability of marijuana flower was delayed.
After months of pressure from patients and advocacy groups, Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana advisory board recommended several updates to the state’s program. One of which, was allowing the sale of marijuana flower. The catch? It must be consumed using a vaporizer. This means no smoking. Regardless of a few hiccups, dispensaries began serving patients earlier this year.
Looking ahead, advocates are hoping to educate state lawmakers about the benefits of ending the criminalization and harassment of honest, hardworking Pennsylvanians for simply possessing a small amount of marijuana.
“New legislation will be introduced at the rally, as 2019 will mark the first time that PA will have partner bills for decriminalization and legalization in both House and Senate. If Pennsylvanians could vote on cannabis legalization in November, I am confident that we would win,” added Riedy.
Considering Pennsylvania is one of several states that lacks a ballot initiative process, all marijuana law reform efforts must be pursued through the state legislature. This means, in order to be successful, advocates must educate those who are willing to listen or elect new, more supportive lawmakers to represent them in Harrisburg. So make no mistake, the outcome of this November’s election will certainly have an impact on the future of marijuana in the Keystone State.
That’s why we’re encouraging voters in Pennsylvania to support Jon Fetterman, an outspoken supporter of legalizing marijuana, who is running for Lieutenant Governor. Mr. Fetterman was the very first candidate endorsed by NORML PAC for the 2018 midterm elections.
Read more about our endorsement here: https://bit.ly/2OMBjoM