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Fetterman to launch statewide listening tour on merits of recreational pot

Deb Erdley
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Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman will wade into the weeds to gauge public interest in legalizing recreational marijuana during a 67-county tour of the state beginning next month.

Fetterman, the former Braddock mayor who was sworn in as lieutenant governor last week, announced Thursday he is planning a statewide tour of every county in the state to gauge the public’s sentiments about legalizing recreational marijuana.

Pennsylvania is among 33 states that have legalized medical marijuana. To date, 10 other states have legalized recreational marijuana and others are weighing that option.

Calls for legalizing recreational marijuana have been building since the state legalized medical marijuana in 2016. Less than a year later, a Franklin & Marshall College poll found 60 percent of Pennsylvanians favored such a move. And both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of the drug.

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has said regulating and legalizing recreational marijuana could spur the creation of a $1.7 billion industry and net the state in excess of $500 million a year in new tax revenue.

Last fall, state Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District, introduced a bill to legalize recreational marijuana for people over age 21 and expunge the criminal records of those jailed on marijuana charges.

Wheatley’s bill would allow people to have up to six cannabis plants, with up to three flowering at a time.

Both Fetterman and Gov. Tom Wolf have said it is time for Pennsylvania to take a serious and honest look at legalizing recreational marijuana.

Wolf, however, stressed that any proposal for legalizing recreational marijuana would need to be delayed until the state finishes rolling out its medical marijuana program. No timeline is in place.

Wolf said Fetterman’s tour will help ensure state officials weigh all perspectives when they consider legalizing recreational marijuana.

Fetterman said he’d like to hear about the pros and cons from regular Pennsylvanians.

“Starting in mid-February, I will be traveling to all 67 counties to listen to everyone’s thoughts whether they agree with this initiative or have recommendations,” Fetterman said. “We want to make sure all Pennsylvanians have a say.”

Deb Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Deb at 724-850-1209, [email protected] or via Twitter @deberdley_trib.