Wheatley introduces legislation to legalize adult use of cannabis

Bill also seeks to expunge records, release those jailed for cannabis-related crimes

HARRSIBURG, Sept. 24 – State Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Allegheny, today introduced comprehensive legislation regarding the recreational use and possession of cannabis among adults 21 or older.

House Bill 2600 would legalize the possession of cannabis products such as edibles, and up to six cannabis plants, but not more than three mature plants that are flowering. The bill does not make it legal to use cannabis publicly, nor to drive under its influence.

Most importantly, Wheatley said, the bill would address the release, expungement and reinstatement of individuals who have been jailed or have criminal records due to cannabis-related crimes.

“My bill would immediately release people jailed for crimes associated with cannabis,” Wheatley said. “Those who have criminal histories related to cannabis would be expunged, and professional and driver’s licenses that were revoked or suspended due to cannabis-related crimes would be reinstated. For far too long, the criminal justice system has unfairly punished Pennsylvanians, especially minorities, who are caught with cannabis.”

Additionally, Wheatley said the bill would create significant savings to the commonwealth’s criminal justice system by allowing law enforcement to combat serious, violent crimes and let people get back to work to support themselves and their families. If the measure is passed, it would also impose a tax that could generate an estimated $500 million annually, based on the Pennsylvania auditor general’s report, Wheatley said. There would be exemption to growers who partner with existing state farmers that convert to cannabis.

“I propose that with the revenue generated from a wholesale, sales and retail tax, we could deposit 85 percent of it into the General Fund and provide the Department of Corrections with the other 15 percent,” Wheatley said. “That money would go toward positive things such as re-entry programs, workforce development and expungement services, along with mentoring and technical assistance in our communities.”

The legislation also would replace the word marijuana with cannabis throughout Act 16 of 2016, in order to stop the demonization of Mexican immigrants and minorities, who some Southern and Midwest politicians in the 1930s claimed were bringing the plant into the country to use as poison. It also calls for a diversity initiative which would include incentives for the hiring of women and minorities, in moving away from the proposed ‘state-store’ model, and instead building on the infrastructure already created by medical cannabis. The state’s medical marijuana program was signed into law in April 2016.

Wheatley noted that over 60 percent of people living in the commonwealth support the legalization of cannabis. In August he launched a petition to support his upcoming legislation and so far it has garnered 8,222 signatures. The petition can be viewed here.

Wheatley has long advocated for criminal justice restoration and the legalization of cannabis. He spoke at a NORML rally held at the Capitol in support of his legislation this morning.