A Pennsylvania GOP senator says the state is “getting close” to legalizing marijuana, but the job will only get done if House and Senate leaders sit down with the governor and “work it out.”

At a rally organized by ResponsiblePA on Tuesday, Sens. Dan Laughlin (R), Sharif Street (D) and other champions of cannabis reform discussed the push for legalization, regional dynamics and the federal rescheduling action.

Laughlin described himself as “one of the most unlikely advocates for legalizing adult-use cannabis” who was “as anti-pot as you could be” during his early career in the Senate. But at a picnic one year, a conversation with his son led him to reverse course.

“He was advocating that we should legalize adult-use cannabis, and I rolled my eyes at him. And he said that, ‘I can make a text and have cannabis delivered to the house here probably in 20 minutes. It’s faster than Amazon,’” the senator recalled. “I was like, ‘jeez, I guess we’ve reached that point in society.’ That was kind of a pivotal moment for me.”

The senator, who filed a legalization bill alongside Street last year, said it’s “ridiculous” that cannabis is legally accessible in the state’s existing medical marijuana program but criminalized outside of that context.

“I think we’re getting close,” he said. “And I will say this—I say it respectfully—I don’t think we’re going to get this done, though, until the leaders of the House and Senate sit down with the governor of Pennsylvania and work it out.”

“We need to work it out, and that doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” Laughlin said, adding that while he understands Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) has again included legalization in his budget proposal this year, “you need to sit down with House and Senate leadership and try and work out a package where we can get this done.”

Street, for his part, said the politics around marijuana reform are “aligning.”

“There’s bipartisan support—bicameral support as well,” he said. “It’s the time to do it because the states around us have already moved forward. It’s the time to do it because even the federal government is signaling rescheduling. And if we delay once again, we’ll put Pennsylvania industry behind.”

He said that’ll be especially true if the federal government authorizes states to engage in interstate cannabis commerce. That wouldn’t happen with rescheduling, but there’s been talk of updating federal enforcement guidance that could theoretically address the issue.

Street added that other provisions of legalization legislation such as expungements for prior cannabis convictions should be non-controversial.

“There are some debates, but we need to debate those issues and to reach consensus and we need to move forward,” he said.

Warren County, Pennsylvania District Attorney Robert Greene, a registered medical cannabis patient in the state,  also spoke at Tuesday’s rally. In January, Greene filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to overturn a ban preventing medical marijuana patients from buying and possessing firearms.

Meanwhile, last week the governor’s office said that the Biden administration’s move to federally reschedule marijuana “adds support” for an effort to legalize cannabis in Pennsylvania.

Two Pennsylvania House panels held a joint hearing to discuss marijuana legalization last month, with multiple lawmakers asking the state’s top liquor regulator about the prospect of having that agency run cannabis shops.

Last month, members of the House Health Committee had a conversation centered on social justice and equity considerations for reform.

That took place days after Rep. Amen Brown (D) filed a marijuana legalization bill that he described as “grounded in safety and social equity.”

At a prior meeting in March, members focused on criminal justice implications of prohibition and the potential benefits of reform.

At another hearing in February, members looked at the industry perspective, with multiple stakeholders from cannabis growing, dispensing and testing businesses, as well as clinical registrants, testifying.

At the subcommittee’s previous cannabis meeting in December, members heard testimony and asked questions about various elements of marijuana oversight, including promoting social equity and business opportunities, laboratory testing and public versus private operation of a state-legal cannabis industry.

And during the panel’s first meeting late last year, Frankel said that state-run stores are “certainly an option” he’s considering for Pennsylvania, similar to what New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) recommended for that state last year, though a state commission later shied away from that plan.

The cannabis proposal the Brown filed in the House last month is an identical companion to a bipartisan Senate cannabis legalization measure that was introduced last year.

Source: https://www.marijuanamoment.net/pennsylvania-gop-senator-says-state-is-getting-close-to-legalizing-marijuana-but-lawmakers-must-work-it-out-with-governor/