FILE: Berks Country Pharmacann makes medical marijuana products.  (Photo By MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images) Berks Country Pharmacann
FILE: Berks Country Pharmacann makes medical marijuana products. (Photo By MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

The bipartisan bill prioritizes safety, community reinvestment, social and economic equity, agriculture, and creates vital tax revenue streams for the state.

After almost a year of working with advocacy groups and stakeholders across Pennsylvania, two state senators—from opposing parties—have proposed legislation that would allow adults over the age of 21 to buy and use marijuana.

“We developed a bill that is a Pennsylvania approach to adult use marijuana legalization,” said state Sen. Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia), one of the main sponsors of the bill.

Street’s cosponsor is state Sen. Dan Laughlin (R-Erie). 

“We have introduced SB 473, which we believe is the best option to legalize recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania,” Laughlin said in a news release. “Through bipartisan support, Senator Street and I believe that we have found a way to get this important legislation to the finish line. With most of the surrounding states passing legalization bills, it’s time to act now before we lose revenue due to border bleed.”

Recreational marijuana is legal in 18 states and at least 36 allow it for medical use. New Jersey and New York legalized it just this year. Virginia approved its legalization starting in 2024. And the legislature in Maryland is considering a bipartisan bill.

Who Supports Legalizing Marijuana in Pennsylvania?

An informal survey of residents of all 67 Pennsylvania counties in 2019 showed that most Pennsylvanians support legalization of adult-use marijuana.

And a 2020 study from the Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition found that roughly 62% of Pennsylvania voters support legalizing recreational marijuana for adults, including 76% of progressive voters and 54% of conservative voters.

Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman have both repeatedly voiced support for legalizing marijuana in Pennsylvania. And the governor has promised to sign legislation that makes it to his desk.

What’s in the Bill to Legalize Recreational Marijuana?

The bill is technically an amendment to the law that created the Pennsylvania medical marijuana program.

The new language would allow for the legal possession of about an ounce of marijuana. 

It would also release anyone currently serving time in prison for a nonviolent marijuana offense and expunge the records of people convicted of low-level marijuana crimes.

Existing medical dispensaries would be able to sell marijuana to the public and licenses to grow marijuana would be made widely available. It would also allow medical marijuana patients to grow up to five cannabis plants at home.

Funds generated through a 6% sales tax and an additional 10% levy would provide loans and grants to fund social equity programs to assist any resident if they wanted to sell or grow cannabis. 

According to the Pennsylvania Independent Fiscal Office, legalizing adult-use cannabis would generate between $400 million to $1 billion of new tax revenue for the commonwealth.

What Other Bills Have Been Proposed to Legalize Marijuana?

Rep. David Delloso (D-Delaware County) introduced HB 1180 in April; it proposes amending the Liquor Code to include a section on adult-use marijuana. This bill makes marijuana legal for adults over the age of 21 and is regulated in a manner similar to alcohol in Pennsylvania.

HB 1180 also expunges low level marijuana convictions and allows individuals to grow up to six plants privately.

The bill was referred to the House Liquor Control committee.

Sen. Mike Regan (R-Cumberland County), who spent two decades in law enforcement, also plans to introduce legislation to legalize marijuana. In a memo to all Senate members, Regan said his proposal would provide for social equity, inclusion, and assistance for business entry into the industry and address DUI enforcement. It would also develop educational programs and deterrents for underage use.

A portion of the marijuana revenue would go directly to the Pennsylvania State Police to rebuild the Motor License Fund. Regan said this would allow for proper investment in the state’s roads and bridges and a stronger infrastructure for the state.

Regan has not yet introduced the proposed legislation.