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Marijuana Legalization in Pennsylvania

In the past 30 years, laws regarding marijuana have been rapidly changing. Today we are going to take a look into the history of marijuana laws in Pennsylvania, the current state laws on marijuana, and what the future looks like for marijuana legalization in Pennsylvania.

When William Penn first founded the state, in 1619, he intended for hemp to be grown throughout Pennsylvania. By 1683 there were laws passed to encourage the farming of hemp. Hemp quickly bolstered the statewide economy as one of the most profitable cash crops. 

Hemp would remain one of the biggest crops in Pennsylvania until the 1930s. During this time there was an explosion of racially motivated anti-marijuana propaganda. In 1933, after the explosion of  this anti-marijuana propaganda, Governor Gifford Pinchot signed a law banning marjuana in the state of Pennsylvania. This would lead to many prominent farmers of hemp being arrested as there was no way to tell the difference between industrial hemp and traditional cannabis. 

There wouldn’t be many changes to the legal standing of marijuana in Pennsylvania until 2014, when the Philadelphia City Council voted to decriminalize small amounts (up to 30 grams) of marijuana. This would change the penalty for simple possession of marijuana to just small fine. Over the next five years most other municipalities would follow Philadelphia’s lead, decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana. 

In 2016  the state congress passed Senate Bill 3, legalizing medical marijuana in Pennsylvania. Since that law has been passed, numerous licensed growers and dispensaries have opened their doors for business. However, adult use is still a privilege that Pennsylvanian marijuana advocates are still fighting for. This past year, Gov. Tom Wolfe and Lieutenant General John Fetterman conducted a statewide listening tour. Through their tour they learned that of their audiences a majority were in support of legalizing recreational adult use of marijuana, and that the vast majority of voters under the age of 35 support legalization as well. 

Pennsylvania was once a bustling oasis of hemp and cannabis. However due to racist motivation the state decided to ban one of its most profitable crops. Now that we as a society have seen the harm that these racially motivated laws actually have on our communities action has been taken. Recent reforms have moved Pennsylvania in the right direction, towards full legalization.

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