HARRISBURG, Pa. — The latest push to legalize adult-use marijuana in Pennsylvania comes from a Republican lawmaker, who says his party affiliation could be the tipping factor in getting the measure passed.
Legalization efforts have been in the works for years. Democratic lawmakers led these efforts, while Gov. Tom Wolf threw his support behind legalization in 2019. The governor has since strengthened his position, calling for legalization as a priority in his 2021 agenda.
Years of such efforts have so far failed to gain traction in the GOP-controlled legislature.
State Sen. Mike Regan (R-York/Cumberland) hopes to change that by introducing a marijuana legislation measure himself.
“Well number one, I think it's a benefit that I'm the one offering it,” Regan said.
Regan isn’t the first Republican to propose marijuana legalization. State Sen. Daniel Laughlin (R-Erie) co-sponsored the Adult Use Cannabis and Economic Recovery bill along with State Sen. Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia) in February 2021.
In addition, Regan’s bill isn’t the first to be introduced this session. State Reps. Jake Wheatley (D-Allegheny) and Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny) announced they would cosponsor HB 2050, a new version of a bill of the same name that did not pass last legislation session.
“This is a completely new bill with a lot of, we think, important improvement,” Wheatley said at a press conference Sept. 28.
Regan thinks his experience as a former U.S. marshal who spent years fighting the wars on drugs will help him convince his colleagues.
“I think I need an opportunity to get before the group and present my rationale. People will change their minds. We'll see.”
Legalization would bring Pennsylvania $1 billion annually in taxes and steal funds away from illegal drug dealers, according to Regan.
“It's a big thing for people to wrap their heads around legalizing marijuana but it's not really being enforced right now and the only people who are winning are the bad guys,” he said.
If the bill passes, Pennsylvania would become the 19th state to legalize marijuana.
There is still a long road ahead for the measure, Regan said, as it could be up to 400 pages long and need to cover complicated issues like how to test for driving under the influence and whether the marijuana sold would also need to be grown in the state, as is currently mandated for medical marijuana.