The Quaker State welcomes you along US 1. Credit: FormulaNone / Flickr

What are the current trending topics regarding cannabis in Pennsylvania? Well, there’s a few. After speaking with advocacy groups and a couple off-the-record sources over the past month, most agree on the major issues in the state. What side they may be on is a different story.

  1. Adult use legalization efforts.

Of course, the biggest topic in any state where cannabis is still illegal or available for medicinal card holders only, continues to be recreational use for adults 21 and over. Legislation from senators Dan Laughlin (R) and Sharif Street (D) has been on the table since 2021, a bi-partisan effort to allow adult-use sales. Hearings began earlier in February and Governor Tom Wolf has made it no secret that he supports the efforts to legalize cannabis in Pennsylvania, tweeting as much from his verified account.

Cannabis lobbyist Meredith Buettner, executive director of the Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition says the push for the recreational market is her first and main effort.

“We can have as many pieces of active legislation as we like, but until we have one scheduled to a vote and get to the [governor’s] desk. … we are still trying to get over hurdles,” Buettner said. “We have seen them hold some hearings, Senators Laughlin and Street, and we have seen them do work and we have been supportive of their efforts, but we haven’t seen a lot of movement on it.”

Buettner cited the current infrastructure in the state as a reason why the adult-use market should take off once regulations are passed. Pennsylvania currently has 32 grow facilities and close to 200 dispensaries open to medical patients.

“If we allow the current assets to get to market while we work through licensing and permits, we can get a program up and running pretty quickly,” she said. 

Unfortunately, this comes at a time of great discourse regarding the ability of residents to grow their own weed at home and a disruption in the medical market due to. …

  1. Last months’ vape cartridge recall has drawn litigation.

As Grown In has reported, the impact of the 670 product recall by the Pennsylvania Department of Health has advocates in the state asking about the long-term. Was the recall necessary? Why has the Department of Health not provided adamant follow-up information surrounding their findings and actions? Will patients who need certain strains affected by the withdrawal from market have continued or regain access to them? And, if not, will possible supply disruptions caused by such a large recall make it more difficult for those in need to purchase products?

Said Buettner, “I think it is interesting that in every story about this issue, the DOH has failed to provide comment.”

Litigation against the DOH ruling has begun, with details provided by the Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Access and Patient Safety here.

  1. Legalizing home grow.

The noise surrounding the ability for both patients and ultimately recreational users, to have the right to grow their own cannabis at home is growing louder. And not surprisingly, the topic sparks a hot debate no matter the side. Rob Rudnitsky, Executive Director of Philly NORML, a lead proponent of home grow, supports efforts to legalize as soon as possible, with the belief that medical patients don’t have the ability or funds to make trips to local dispensaries.

Home grow opponents charge that any measure that allows home grow licenses would likely need additional regulation, including extra fees and testing at certain intervals, which would eliminate any savings consumers would gain by bypassing retail purchase.

All discussion involving home grow so far, has led to accusations that while there is a Democratic Governor, both chambers of the state legislature are controlled by the Republican Party, making it easy to point a finger at either side for not resolving issues such as this. 

  1. Cannabis’ linkage to crime concerns.

When speaking with residents in other states regarding the possibility of adult use cultivation sites or retail dispensaries, one of the biggest concerns is whether there is a rise in criminal incidents surrounding cannabis operations.

As Pennsylvania pushes closer to adult use, those same concerns are rearing their heads.

In 2021, the city of Philadelphia recorded more murders than New York City, despite being around 20 percent of its size. Crime will always present as an issue in any major city, but incidents related to adult use cannabis are minimal.

According to Beau Whitney, of Whitney Economics and chief economist for the National Cannabis Industry Association, there is little to no correlation between legal cannabis and violent crime.

“While more research is clearly required, recently published research in the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization indicates that there is no correlation between cannabis legalization and violent crime,” said Whitney. 

Whitney notes that there is the possible exception of dispensary robberies due to the cash on hand, but that can be solved with a federal act to approve banking in the industry.

Further research Whitney has conducted states that law enforcement is able to focus and solve more violent crimes when not prioritizing arrests that involve cannabis. He says that the added security around dispensaries may even deter crime in the surrounding area.

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Rob Edwards

Rob Edwards is currently the Mid-Atlantic Regional Reporter for Grown In, reporting on the cannabis industry. He was previously a content producer/reporter for NJ Advance Media and a former beat writer...