Wolf renews push to legalize recreational marijuana

HARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Governor Tom Wolf is renewing his push to the state legislature to legalize recreational marijuana, saying it could be a huge moneymaker for Pennsylvania, with an estimated $500 million a year in revenue.

"It just makes sense. Why wouldn't you create another market? There are jobs for people. There are opportunities for people," said Ayanna Mitchell of North Philadelphia.

Mitchell says she's been waiting to see if Pennsylvania would legalize recreational marijuana since the Governor pushed for it a year ago.

"Are they saying this isn't a time we don't need 100's of millions of dollars of additional revenue that could go to help people who are hurting because of the pandemic?" said Wolf.

House Republicans did say this is not the time.

The caucus said in a statement that reads in part, "The Governor is trying to create new government programs, and tax the now-illegal recreational drug to pay for them." The PA Family Institute agrees.

"Why are we doing that to Pennsylvania families right now? Of all times with the sacrifices that were made due to the COVID-19 shutdown," said Bart Kowiak, a spokesperson.

In Germantown, Cherron Perry-Thomas says she can picture a time when she can grow marijuana in her community garden.

"It's like any other plant," said Perry-Thomas who is a director at Black Cannabis Week.

Still, she worries about the timing of the Governor's push too.

Perry-Thomas wants a program that gives equity to neighborhoods that have been long-punished for marijuana use.

She also wants more information from the governor.

"Those bits and pieces sound very dangerous. Those bits and pieces sound like it is being pushed through," she said.

In his press conference, Governor Wolf did say he'd want 50 percent of grant money to go to disadvantaged businesses, along with revenue going to restorative justice programs.

"You're talking nearly a quarter of a million Pennsylvanians that now have some affiliation with the criminal justice system. For nothing more than consuming a plant," said Lt. Governor John Fetterman.

There are two bills currently in the legislature that the Wolf administration would like lawmakers to consider.

House Republicans say they want the governor to work with them on getting people back to work instead.
Copyright © 2020 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.