John Fetterman is currently serving as lieutenant governor of the State of Pennsylvania. He is also running as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate. He has been a longtime supporter of legalized recreational adult-use marijuana.
LVB: You have been a very vocal advocate for the legalization of recreational adult-use marijuana. How did you get started with the issue?
Fetterman: It started when I was a small town mayor working with young people. These silly charges would hold these kids back. It was just ridiculous and enforcement was vastly disproportionate on Black and brown people. Criminality associated with marijuana would not happen if it was legal. No one knocks over a convenience store for a six-pack of beer.
LVB: What are your personal feeling on marijuana?
Fetterman: Personally, I do not use marijuana and I wouldn’t even if it was legal. This is just a plant and it should be in the same basket as tobacco or alcohol. No one has ever died from a [marijuana] overdose. Prohibition just doesn’t make sense.
LVB: What has been the impact of medical marijuana, which is already legal in the state?
Fetterman: It’s approaching $1 billion in sales and I can tell you about the testimony of people who’ve used it and say it’s saved their life and allowed them to get back to normal. Just think of the people on chemo alone and it’s so many things.
Medical marijuana has proven to be an incredible success and I’m reaching out to people urging them to help us remove that last legal barrier for marijuana.
LVB: What do you expect the fiscal impact of legal recreational adult-use marijuana to have on the state?
Fetterman: We’re conservatively estimating that it could bring in $5 billion dollars over the next 20 years, estimating about $250 million in revenue a year. Can you imagine what Pennsylvania could do with that money that’s now going to cartels and dealers?
Make no mistake about it. Soon you’re going to be able to go to New Jersey and go to New York and buy as much legal weed as you want. That’s millions of dollars that Pennsylvania will be missing out on.
Look at what it’s done for states’ budgets in places that have legalization, like Oregon or California or Colorado. Even South Dakota has approved legalization. What are we doing here in Pennsylvania?
LVB: With the expenses that Pennsylvania has had over the past year coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, the state needs money more than ever. Do you think that will nudge legislators who may have been sitting on the fence?
Fetterman: Honestly, I don’t know. What we do between now and when we are able to make it legal is important. We already have our first Republican senator sponsoring marijuana legalization legislation — state Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie. That’s a step. Besides, prohibition is so much harder and more expensive. We could fill Beaver Stadium every five years with people arrested for marijuana. Think of that expense.
I think I want to see some of these [legislators] say ‘Hey, I’ve evolved. Let’s legalize this and help bring millions of dollars into the state.