The political evolution of cannabis for adult use: why postpone the inevitable? | Opinion
By Christophe Woods
There has been a dramatic shift in public opinion across the country towards legalizing adult cannabis sales, including here in Pennsylvania. A Franklin & Marshall poll released last fall found that 58% of Pennsylvania voters support the legalization of recreation as a political reform whose time has come.
In his 2021 budget speech, Governor Tom Wolf once again calls on the General Assembly to update outdated policies and legalize sales of adult cannabis. Let’s take a look at why attitudes have changed and why Pennsylvania is in a privileged position to build on the success of its medical marijuana experiment.
An alternative to tax hikes
While it’s important to stress that marijuana is not supposed to save state budgets, the governor rightly points out that additional tax revenue on legal sales of marijuana will help the state fill its coffers, by particularly in light of the deficits related to COVID. This fiscal year, policymakers will need to close a budget gap estimated at $ 2.5-3.5 billion. Given the unpopularity of the proposed tax increases, legalizing cannabis for adult use is a viable option to face economic realities.
New Jersey’s vote on Nov. 3 to legalize recreational sales doubled Pennsylvania’s momentum to take action or lose much-needed revenue for its neighbor. Forty percent of Pennsylvanians live within a 30-minute drive of New Jersey and can easily cross the state border to shop. Efforts to legalize adult sales in New York City are fast approaching.
Rely on a record of responsibility and success
Pennsylvania passed a medical marijuana reform in 2016. Close oversight has allowed the industry to build an infrastructure of highly regulated medical marijuana growing and processing facilities along with over 100 dispensaries, and the number is increasing. Over 9,000 full-time jobs have been created in less than five years. With many Pennsylvanians out of work and seeking unemployment benefits, further job growth would help communities across the state and in all of the counties in between.
Terrapin is proud to have received one of the original licenses to operate a medical marijuana facility just outside Lock Haven. We employ over 75 Pennsylvanians who grow, process and package medical marijuana here in rural Clinton County. This summer, we invested an additional $ 6 million in capital improvements at the facility, doubling our capacity and workforce.
Faced with COVID-19 in the spring, every state with legal marijuana programs has deemed cannabis essential during shutdowns. In Pennsylvania, medical marijuana has helped Pennsylvanians cope with anxiety caused by COVID, as well as continue to treat existing conditions. The industry’s response during COVID further legitimized it as a responsible industry.
Now Pennsylvania has the opportunity to move quickly and safely to expand into adult-use sales with experienced and socially responsible operators now doing business in the state. We know from other states that this logical next step delivers reliable results.
According to Meredith Buettner, executive director of the Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition (PCC), “PCC members have established standard operating procedures to quickly launch the initial market for adult use while prioritizing patients in the program. medical. The additional job growth and community investment that comes with creating a well-regulated, adult-oriented market is crucial for the Commonwealth in a post-COVID-19 environment. “
Social responsibility is our vocation
At Terrapin, corporate responsibility is the engine of our business model. We promote programs and policies that emphasize investment, access and equal opportunity. As part of our efforts to drive social justice reform, Terrapin helped found the Cannabis Impact Fund, whose mission is to promote racial justice and support underserved communities by leveraging a cannabis sector. aware. Through the Cannabis Impact Fund, Terrapin helps others learn how to approach social equity in the workplace.
In Pennsylvania, Terrapin continues to demonstrate its commitment to Veterans, women and minority-owned businesses through our hiring practices, service contracts and community support. We help rehabilitate the Veterans Park at Lock Haven and every year we host an educational summit to introduce minority students to entrepreneurial opportunities in the medical marijuana industry in Pennsylvania.
Open the door to collaboration
As we have done in other recreational states, the cannabis industry is ready to work with lawmakers to address legitimate concerns. Our experience has shown that some concerns are unfounded, while others can be mitigated through regulatory oversight.
It is only a matter of time until the disconnect between national and state laws is corrected. Under current federal law, cannabis is classified as a Schedule I drug, which means it is considered highly addictive with no medical value. But medical marijuana is legal in 36 states and DC 16 other states and DC have voted to legalize marijuana for adult use.
At Terrapin, we are committed to socially responsible cannabis production. We are proud of our record on job creation and corporate citizenship. It is high time for a drug policy that modernizes outdated thinking and uses what we have learned to create well-regulated, adult-oriented programs that benefit all Pennsylvanians.
Christopher Woods was born in Bucks County and graduated in Biomedical Engineering from Penn State in 2005. He is the Founder and CEO of Terrapin, one of the first recipients of a Medical Cannabis Producer / Processor License in Pennsylvania.