FILE - PA Medical Marijuana Dispensary 2-1-2018

Photographs of marijuana plants are on the wall beside shelves of product displays during an open house Feb. 1, 2018, for the opening of CY+ Medical marijuana Dispensary in Butler, Pennsylvania.

(The Center Square) – No matter how much Gov. Tom Wolf may support it, one of the Senate’s highest ranking Republicans said a deal legalizing recreational marijuana this fall just won’t happen. 

“Like with any issue, a bill would need to work its way through the Senate Committee process to be vetted,” said Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre. “Movement on this issue should not be expected his fall.” 

Corman’s comments follow a Thursday news conference from Gov. Tom Wolf again calling on the Legislature to enable recreational cannabis and use the tax revenue to fill a pandemic-induced budget deficit and fund business grants and restorative justice programs. 

“Now more than ever, we see a desperate need for the economic boost cannabis legalization can provide,” Wolf said. “Half of these grants would be earmarked for historically disadvantaged businesses, many of which have had difficulties attaining other assistance because of systemic issues.” 

“The other portion of the revenue will go toward restorative justice programs that give priority to repairing the harm done to crime victims and communities as a result of cannabis criminalization,” he added. 

Wolf first endorsed recreational marijuana legalization last year after Lt. Gov. John Fetterman completed a statewide “listening tour” and found residents largely supportive of the measure across all 67 counties. 

“Now more than ever, we must stop prosecuting people for doing something that most Pennsylvanians don't even think should be illegal,” Fetterman said Thursday.

Wolf pointed to recent legalization efforts in Washington and Colorado that netted nearly $600 million in combined revenue since 2018. Though he concedes drafting legislation would take time, the governor urged the General Assembly to take immediate action on bills decriminalizing possession of small amounts by downgrading the charge from a third degree misdemeanor – which carries jail time – to a summary offense.

Corman said although he appreciates Wolf’s recognition that lawmakers should play a prominent role in drafting this policy, he’s not convinced by the broad parameters laid out so far and “looks forward” to receiving more specifics. 

“It was Winston Churchill who said: ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste,’” he said. “We have long maintained that state laws should be changed because they are good policy for the people of Pennsylvania – not because of their potential to generate money.”

Staff Reporter

Christen Smith follows Pennsylvania's General Assembly for The Center Square. She is an award-winning reporter with more than a decade of experience covering state and national policy issues for niche publications and local newsrooms alike.