Pennsylvania lawmakers will consider several bills relating to the state’s criminal statutes when they return, but the one expected to attract the most attention involves the legalization of marijuana.
Sens. Daylin Leach, D-King of Prussia, and Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia, have introduced a bill that would legalize the drug’s recreational use for Pennsylvanians 21 and older. The bill would also expunge the criminal records of some nonviolent offenders charged with marijuana possession.
The bill also allows residents to grow up to 10 marijuana plants in their home and marijuana delivery would be allowed. Leach and Street said their bill could generate an estimated $500 million in tax revenue, which would be allocated to the commonwealth’s school districts.
Gov. Tom Wolf said he supports legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, a change from his stance leading up to the 2018 election.
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman conducted a listening tour of all 67 Pennsylvania counties in 2019, and a report from the tour indicated that 65 to 70 percent of residents supported marijuana legalization for adult use. Those surveyed also indicated they wanted an oversight entity.
Leading Republican lawmakers have argued that full legalization of marijuana so soon after the state passed a medical marijuana program would be premature.
The bill is currently in the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.
Other bills lawmakers will consider in 2020:
• The Senate Judiciary Committee will consider a bill by Rep. Aaron Bernstine, R-Ellwood City, that would deny parole to inmates who have only served the minimum sentence if they committed a violence offense in prison. Bernstine introduced “Markie’s Law” after an 8-year-old boy was killed by man released from prison after serving the minimum sentence for homicide. The man had assaulted other inmates while in prison. The House of Representatives passed the bill in December.
• Rep. Carl Walker Metzger, R-Berlin, has introduced a series of bills he says will improve safety for Department of Corrections’ staff members. House Bills 256 and 257 will increase the penalties for inmates who assault prison employees. The bills passed the House of Representatives in December and are currently in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Metzger has other bills pending in the House Judiciary Committee, including one that would eliminate parole for inmates who assault correctional staff.
• Rep. Kyle Mullins, D-Olyphant, Rep. Torren Ecker, R-Abbottstown and Rep. Brandon Markosek, D-Monroeville, introduced a bipartisan bill in November to redefine bullying and enhance penalties. House Bill 2053 is currently in the House Judiciary Committee.
• Rep. Jim Struzzi, R-Indiana, introduced a bill that will enhance the penalties for assaulting a person who is intellectually or physically disabled. Cody’s Law will make assaulting a disabled person a second-degree felony. The bill is currently in the House Judiciary Committee.