Wolf calls for ‘serious’ look at legalizing recreational pot

Marc Levy
Associated Press
FILE - In this Jan. 1, 2018, file photo, different types of marijuana are displayed at Harborside marijuana dispensary in Oakland, Calif. Supporters of legalizing recreational marijuana in North Dakota have succeeded in bringing the matter to a public vote later this year. Secretary of State Al Jaeger says proponents submitted more than enough valid petition signatures to get a measure on the November general election ballot. Supporters of legalizing recreational marijuana failed on a petition drive in 2016. (AP Photo/Mathew Sumner, File)

HARRISBURG – Gov. Tom Wolf cast aside his unwillingness to discuss the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes and on Wednesday signaled that he is open to taking a look at it as it gathers popularity and momentum.

Wolf, a Democrat, made the comment while answering questions from the public on Twitter, saying “it is time for Pennsylvania to take a serious and honest look at recreational marijuana.”

“More and more states are successfully implementing marijuana legalization,” and Pennsylvania should learn from their efforts, Wolf said.

Previously, Wolf had said he would want to study the experience of states where it is legal before deciding whether to support legalizing the sale of recreational marijuana. However, he has never initiated any sort of study of it or suggested that the time is right for his administration to look into it.

With his second term set to start in January, Wolf will be joined by a lieutenant governor, John Fetterman, who has long supported the full legalization of marijuana.

Such a change would require action by Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled Legislature, and leaders there have never sought to start a discussion about it.

Wolf signed Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana law in 2016, passed with strong bipartisan support from lawmakers, and he has overseen the program’s implementation, beginning with the first sale last February. He also ran for governor in 2014 supporting the decriminalization of the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.

FILE - In this Sept. 21, 2018, file photo Gov. Tom Wolf speaks at a campaign rally for Pennsylvania candidates in Philadelphia. With Wolf’s second term effectively underway, perhaps the biggest question in Pennsylvania’s Capitol is how Republicans who control the Legislature will re-emerge after suffering losses in the Nov. 6 election. The Republican majorities remain substantial, but they’re going to be the smallest since Wolf became governor in 2015. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

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Possession or sale of marijuana for other purposes remains a crime in the state, although Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and several other Pennsylvania cities have decriminalized possession of small amounts.

Colorado and Washington first approved the sale of recreational marijuana in 2012. Now, 10 states and the District of Columbia have approved recreational marijuana, including Michigan and Vermont this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In neighboring New Jersey, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy is a vocal proponent of legalizing marijuana and lawmakers are advancing a legalization measure. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that he wants lawmakers to approve a legalization measure in 2019.

A 2017 poll by Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster found that 59 percent of those Pennsylvanians surveyed supported the legalization of marijuana use. That was up from just 22 percent in a 2006 Franklin and Marshall College poll.