PA Republicans shrug off Shapiro’s call for marijuana legalization

Harrisburg republicans

Pennsylvania Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman speaking to the media following Gov. Josh Shapiro's budget address at the state capitol in Harrisburg on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024. (Photo: Sean Kitchen)

By Sean Kitchen

February 9, 2024

The federal government hasn’t stopped Pennsylvania Senate Republicans from passing controversial bills. So what gives with legalizing adult-use cannabis?

A two-thirds majority of Pennsylvania voters support the legalization of adult-use cannabis according to a recent poll conducted by Franklin and Marshall college.

However, that widespread support didn’t stop Pennsylvania Senate Republicans from whiffing on Gov. Josh Shapiro’s renewed calls for legalization during his budget address on Tuesday.

“We have a wide range of opinions on adult use marijuana,” Senate Majority Leader Joe Pittman (R-Armstrong) told reporters following Shapiro’s budget address on Tuesday.

“Frankly, my personal opinion is that this is something the federal government needs to address in a uniform manner, but we also need to understand where the governor’s coming from whenever he indicates a desire to make that a priority.”

The debate surrounding marijuana legalization highlights their hypocrisy on states rights and federal issues. Senate Republicans are willing to shrug marijuana legalization off as a federal issue, but then work on other controversial or unpopular issues, issues that could also be “federal issues” because they feel like they have the right to do so.

Pennsylvania Senate Republicans tried pushing a constitutional ban on abortion following the US Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson decision in 2022, and this past week, they wasted legislative time and resources to pass a meaningless resolution supporting Texas Gov. Greg Abbot, who is currently defying the US Supreme Court and the federal government when it comes to the border with Mexico.

State Rep. Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny), who chairs the House Health Committee, told The Keystone in an interview that he hopes the House Democrats will have a comprehensive legalization bill ready by May or June.

Shapiro is calling for the legalization of marijuana by July and wants recreational cannabis sales to start on Jan. 1, 2025.

“Last year, 57 percent of voters in Ohio supported an initiative to legalize recreational marijuana,” Shapiro said in his budget address.

“And now, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland – practically all of our neighbors – have legalized marijuana. We’re losing out on an industry that, once fully implemented, would bring in more than 250 million dollars in annual revenue,” he said.

“And our failure to legalize and regulate this only fuels the black market and drains much needed resources for law enforcement. It’s time to catch up.”



  • Sean Kitchen

    Sean Kitchen is the Keystone’s political correspondent, based in Harrisburg. Sean is originally from Philadelphia and spent five years working as a writer and researcher for Pennsylvania Spotlight.


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