During his annual state budget address, Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro called on lawmakers to fully legalize recreational marijuana, which immediately drew applause from major cannabis companies.
Shapiro followed the speech up with a message posted on X, and wrote, “We need to legalize marijuana. We’re losing out on an industry that would bring in more than $250 million in annual revenue. And our failure to legalize and regulate marijuana only fuels the black market and drains much needed resources for law enforcement. It’s time to catch up.”
Shapiro wrote that there are “three key conditions” that he said must be met by lawmakers in a bill to legalize cannabis: “it has to prioritize creating good—paying jobs, the industry must be regulated and taxed responsibly, and there must be a criminal justice component.”
“This is common sense. Let’s get it done,” Shapiro wrote.
In his speech, the governor also cited the fact that most of Pennsylvania’s neighbors – including Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Ohio – have all legalized adult-use cannabis. The only state bordering Pennsylvania which has not legalized yet is West Virginia, though it does have a medical marijuana market.
In budget documents, Shapiro’s office laid out a proposed legalization date of July 1 for possession and consumption, with full adult-use sales beginning Jan. 1, 2025, Marijuana Moment reported.
Cannabis companies and activist groups rushed to cheer the governor’s move.
American Trade Association for Cannabis and Hemp (ATACH) President Michael Bronstein threw his organization’s support behind the governor in a press release, saying “the time to act is now.”
Shapiro’s budget proposal and legalization stance, Bronstein said, “moves Pennsylvania’s economy forward.”
The industry echoed ATACH’s sentiment, with multistate operators Green Thumb Industries (CSE: GTII) (OTC: GTBIF) and Jushi Holdings (CSE: JUSH) (OTCQX: JUSHF) both issuing statements quickly after Shapiro’s speech. Both companies have sizable footprints in Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana market, and stand to win big if the state converts to adult-use.
Jim Cacioppo, the CEO of multistate operator Jushi, said in a statement that he was “proud to applaud” Shapiro’s stance.
“Together, we have built a system that has succeeded beyond all expectations and these protections created by the program can now be applied to the adult-use cannabis marketplace,” Cacioppo said of the Pennsylvania medical marijuana program. “We look forward to working with Gov. Shapiro to implement this commonsense policy into law for this budget cycle without further delay.”
And Ben Kovler, the CEO of Chicago-based Green Thumb, praised the governor for calling for a quick launch to recreational sales at the start of 2025.
“This call for change signals continued progress in the Northeast toward ending Prohibition 2.0 and the devastating impact it has inflicted on communities. The team at Green Thumb is ready to support the people of Pennsylvania,” Kovler said in a statement.
Another Pennsylvania medical marijuana operator, Colorado-based Terrapin, also praised Shapiro’s comments, with CEO Chris Woods saying in a statement that “the time has come.”
“It is time to end the criminalization of behavior from otherwise law-abiding citizens for possessing a substance that adults 21 and older are permitted to consume all around them and in 24 states across the country,” Woods said, adding that if lawmakers don’t act, the state will “continue to lose ground.”
It’s not clear, however, if lawmakers will heed Shapiro’s call, particularly given that Republicans control the state Senate, and Democrats hold just a single-vote majority in the state House of Representatives.