Just ahead of a Pennsylvania committee meeting on cannabis reform this week, House lawmakers have introduced a bill to legalize marijuana that the lead sponsor says is “grounded in safety and social equity.”

Rep. Amen Brown (D) is sponsoring the legislation, which is an identical companion to a bipartisan Senate cannabis legalization measure that was filed last year.

The House legislation was introduced on Tuesday, with five cosponsors signed on, two days before members of the Health Subcommittee on Health Care are scheduled to hold the latest in a series of meetings on legalizing marijuana. At last month’s hearing, members focused on criminal justice implications of prohibition and the potential benefits of reform.

On Thursday, the panel will look at social equity issues related to legalization. Witnesses include representatives of the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA), Parabola Center, the Diasporic Alliance for Cannabis Opportunities, a Boston cannabis management official, a retired judge and others.

Brown, the legalization bill sponsor, said in a cosponsorship memo to colleagues last week that his new legislation “addresses safety by setting the minimum marijuana consumption age at 21 years old and provides the appropriate deterrence to keep marijuana out of the hands of anyone under 21.”

“It provides law enforcement the means to adjudicate driving under the influence and the authority to pursue and eradicate any illicit market,” he said. “Furthermore, our bill bans any marketing directed toward children. The bill will provide workplace requirements regarding marijuana use for all those operating in good faith.”

The lawmaker added that the proposal would allow limited home cultivation for medical cannabis patients, while prioritizing social equity licensing and expunging prior marijuana convictions.

“New Jersey and New York have implemented adult use. It is our duty to taxpayers to seize the initiative and legalize marijuana concurrently with bordering states,” the memo says. “Failure to do so risks permanently ceding hundreds of millions of dollars of new tax revenue as well as thousands of jobs at a time when taxpayers can least afford it.”

Sens. Dan Laughlin (R) and Sharif Street (D) filed the Senate companion version of the legalization bill last year.

Here’s what the marijuana legalization bill would accomplish: 

  • Adults 21 and older could purchase, possess and gift up to 30 grams of cannabis.
  • The legislation would allow medical cannabis patients to grow up to five plants for personal therapeutic use, but adult-use consumers would not have a homegrow option.
  • Marijuana products would be subject to an eight percent sales tax, and retailers would additionally need to pay a five percent excise tax on cannabis that it sells.
  • The tax revenue would go to a Cannabis Regulation Fund under the state treasury department. Tax dollars would cover administrative costs and then be distributed to municipalities that allow cannabis businesses to operate in their area and the state general fund to “provide economic relief to this Commonwealth.”
  • Marketing that targets youth would be prohibited and there would be “workplace requirements regarding marijuana use for all those operating in good faith,” according to the sponsors’ press release.
  • The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts would work with police to identify records for people with prior cannabis convictions and facilitate automatic expungements.
  • People who’ve been disproportionately impacted under criminalization and meet income requirements would be eligible for social and economic equity business licenses.
  • The measure would prioritize public safety, giving law enforcement the ability to “adjudicate” impaired driving and empower them to “eradicate” the illicit market.
  • While federal law prohibits people who use marijuana from buying or owning firearms, the bill would provide state-level protections against losing gun rights over cannabis.
  • Possession or use of marijuana by parents or guardians could not be used as the sole basis for adverse child custody actions.

Meanwhile, the Health subcommittee that’s set to meet on Thursday has held hearings several times recently to discuss cannabis issues. At one of the latest hearings 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.

During the panel’s first meeting late last year, Rep. Dan Frankel (D) 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.

While Pennsylvania lawmakers have put forward legalization bills in the past, it’s not clear what might serve as the vehicle for reform this year.

Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) once again proposed legalization as part of his budget request in February, seeking to establish a system that would be implemented starting this summer. But while he suggested certain parameters such as having the Department of Agriculture regulate the program, there’s not legislative text yet.

Last month, the Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) released a report that found the state stands to generate $271 million in annual revenue if marijuana is legalizedand taxed according to the governor’s proposal—but it would have been more if the commonwealth hadn’t been lapped by other neighboring states that have already enacted the reform.

Meanwhile, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jordan Harris (D) said in a recent interview that it’s “high time” to legalize marijuana and lay the groundwork for businesses in the state to export cannabis to other markets if federal law changes—and he sees a “real opportunity” to do so.

However, the committee’s minority chairman, Rep. Seth Grove (R), said he’s doubtful that the Democratic-controlled House will be able to craft and deliver legalization legislation that could advance through the GOP majority Senate.

Pennsylvania lawmakers also recently advanced a pair of bills meant to prevent police from charging medical cannabis patients with impaired driving without proof of intoxication.

A Republican state senator also says he will soon introduce legislation that would remove barriers under state law to medical marijuana patients carrying firearms.

In December, the governor signed a bill to allow all licensed medical marijuana grower-processors in the state to serve as retailers and sell their cannabis products directly to patients. Independent dispensaries could also start cultivating their own marijuana.

A poll released in February found that about two-thirds of Pennsylvania voters in the state support enacting marijuana legalization.