Editors Note: This is an opinion piece.
I would like to say kudos to Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf for finally calling on the Pennsylvania General Assembly to legalize adult-use cannabis. It would have been better if he had actually thought through what he was proposing and meant it.
Last week, the governor said that he would like to legalize cannabis in order to bring in more revenue for the state and he thinks that selling cannabis in the state liquor stores is the way to do it.
“My hope is that with the pandemic and the hit that we have taken to revenues that there might be a little more interest in it now. And I think that we have had a little more time to see what’s happening in places like Colorado with revenues for example. This might be one way to plug a hole….We have a state store system that would be an ideal way to distribute it,” said Wolf.
Wolf spoke about how he would like funds left over from the CARES Act and tax revenue from cannabis sales to help turn the tide of the pandemic induced recession that has hit the commonwealth, but Senator Daylin Leach the sponsor of SB350 known as the “gold standard” for adult use legalization calls the governor’s plan a nightmare.
“I think it would be unresponsive to the consumer, a bureaucratic nightmare, discourage innovation and kill large parts of the industry right off the bat. Sure, we could do it. We could do it in a way that is less profitable, less advantageous, we can do it in a way that is lesser all around. I don’t know why we would do this,” said Leach.
Wolf’s proposal would make Pennsylvania the only state-run cannabis market in the country and we all know how well things go when the government takes over. If the state runs cannabis sales, it eliminates the retail market opportunity, a key driver of market competition, which means consumers will be the ones taking the hit in their pocketbooks. It will also constrain the product market, keeping out the smaller less capitalized brands, less flexibility in what brands will be sold and less chance of innovation.
Leach says that the governor’s plan is a political nonstarter and his state store announcement did more damage than good.
“He has made it (legalization) far less likely to pass. Republicans hate the state system, they are looking to shut down the state system, not expand their portfolio. Other than sign medical, he did nothing to help us pass medical. Wolf’s efforts to pass legalization have been clumsy and ham-handed enough.”
Knowing that Republicans are opposed, and every other state has passed on a government takeover of their cannabis markets, doesn’t it seem obvious that his proposal is a poison pill? Does it not seem intentionally designed to fail? There is plenty of precedents that makes it clear from every state why no government in its right mind would take this approach.