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Fetterman: Pennsylvania farmers will grow better marijuana than New Jersey's

Lieutenant Gov. says it's time to 'get serious' about legalization

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, joined by Gov. Tom Wolf, spoke in favor of marijuana legalization at an event in Harrisburg on Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman have been in a full court press to legalize recreational marijuana over the past few weeks.

Last month, Wolf called on state lawmakers to bring him a bill that would direct revenue from legal marijuana to disadvantaged businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. He also urged making restorative justice a priority for Pennsylvania communities that have been harmed by marijuana criminalization.

On Wednesday, Wolf and Fetterman participated in a Harrisburg event put on by marijuana advocacy group NORML.

Adult-Use Marijuana Update

Please join me and Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman as we provide an update on legalizing adult-use marijuana in Pennsylvania.

Posted by Governor Tom Wolf on Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Fetterman, who has taken the lead on public outreach for marijuana reform, stressed that delaying legalization could put Pennsylvania at an economic disadvantage if New Jersey does so first and gets a head start.

"New Jersey is going to vote to legalize marijuana, and 40% of our population will live within a 30-minute drive or less of legal marijuana," Fetterman said at the Capitol. "The governor and I think our legal marijuana is better. We think our farmers would grow better legal marijuana than New Jersey. We think we should reap the benefits, not New Jersey."

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New Jersey residents will vote on a referendum to legalize marijuana on Nov. 3. Polls suggest the measure will pass. A previous legislative push to legalize marijuana narrowly failed to pass in New Jersey last year.

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Fetterman has called cannabis a "turnkey solution" for Pennsylvania and believes the issue should be framed in economic terms. The cannabis industry has weathered the pandemic well, bolstered by rising use of medical marijuana and optimism that fiscal problems will push more states toward legalization.

"We’re talking about generating billions in long-term revenue for Pennsylvania. We’re talking about generating tens of thousands of jobs. We’re talking about substantial criminal justice reform that leads to over 20,000 arrests of our fellow Pennsylvanians every year. We’re talking about freedom."

I'm with @FettermanLt to again ask the PA legislature to take action on adult-use marijuana.

I'm pro-legalization. Profits could help small businesses recover from #COVID19, boost historically disadvantaged businesses, and restore justice to those harmed by criminalization. pic.twitter.com/sUSzuFRxaV

— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) September 16, 2020

Wolf echoed the belief that falling behind New Jersey to get the industry up and running in Pennsylvania would be a misstep.

"New Jersey citizens are going to vote in that referendum, and if they vote to legalize it, we will have given up the opportunity to gain the revenue that will definitely go across the border to New Jersey," Wolf said Wednesday.

Republican lawmakers, still warring with Wolf over COVID-19 policies, have not warmed to acting quickly on the idea. They refused to consider the matter before the pandemic, when Wolf called on the General Assembly last September to address decriminalization and seriously debate adult recreational use for residents over 21 years old.

"Like with any issue, a bill would need to work its way through the Senate Committee process to be vetted," Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said earlier this month. "Movement on this issue should not be expected this fall."

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Fetterman said Wednesday that it makes no sense for the state to wait.

"I don't understand why this is even an issue, especially during this pandemic," Fetterman said. "Let's get serious. Let's implement a serious policy that's going to address all of the areas that Pennsylvania needs addressed right now."

Eleven states and Washington, D.C. have fully legalized marijuana, while New Jersey and Arizona residents will vote on the issue in November.

Appealing to the familiar rivalry between Pennsylvania and New Jersey could be a good way for Wolf and Fetterman to build momentum. The administration's research suggests somewhere between 65 to 70% of Pennsylvania residents have expressed support for marijuana legalization.

“The decriminalization and legalization of adult-use cannabis are what the people of Pennsylvania want," Wolf said. “I urge the General Assembly to listen to them."

Medical marijuana grower gets green light in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A licensed grower and processor of medical marijuana in northwestern Pennsylvania became the first with the state’s approval to begin planting seeds Tuesday.

Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration said the Department of Health approved Cresco Yeltrah’s operations at its Jefferson County location, a former carbon graphite and metal graphite factory in Brookville that closed four years ago.

Tuesday’s approval makes the 40,000-plus-square-foot facility the first to be deemed fully operational in Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program, which Wolf’s administration expects to start selling products in retail dispensaries next year.

With signoff on the facility’s growing operation, seed planting can begin. A full grow cycle takes approximately 120 days, during which the company said it will wrap up construction on the processing facility.

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Cresco Yeltrah said it will grow a variety of over 30 genetic strains at the Brookville facility and will produce an array of pharmaceutical-grade marijuana products including vapor oils, transdermal patches and pills.

It expects the complete line of products to be available for patients statewide in February, it said.

The department expects 11 other licensed grower-processors to be operational in the coming weeks. It issued the permits in June, selecting the 12 winners from among 177 applicants. The department has also issued permits to 27 entities to operate retail dispensaries, including three to be operated by Cresco Yeltrah.

Cresco Yeltrah is a partnership between Cresco Labs LLC of Chicago and the Hartley family, which owns various Butler-based glass manufacturing businesses.

Pennsylvania is the second state where Cresco Labs is operating. The firm began as a medical marijuana grower and processor in Illinois and is now the largest grower and processor there, with about 100,000 square feet at three facilities. Its products are sold in every dispensary in Illinois.

In Pennsylvania, patients could take marijuana in pill, oil, vapor or liquid form, but they cannot legally obtain marijuana to smoke or to grow their own. The law lists 17 qualifying diagnosed conditions, including HIV/AIDS, autism, cancer, chronic pain and Crohn’s disease.

Physicians must be registered by the state to certify that a patient has an eligible condition, and a patient must get a Department of Health-issued ID card.

Wolf signed Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program into law in April 2016. While retail sale is awaiting regulations and licensing, a safe harbor provision in the bill has allowed parents to avoid the wait by legally buying medical marijuana from another state for their children.