The Incline in Harrisburg

Hundreds are expected to rally for legal pot in Harrisburg. Is the timing right?

Pittsburgh Rep. Jake Wheatley, who will formally introduce his legalization bill Monday, thinks so.

The Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg is bathed in green lights to celebrate the passage of Pennsylvania's medical marijuana law in 2016.

The Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg is bathed in green lights to celebrate the passage of Pennsylvania's medical marijuana law in 2016.

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr
Sarah Anne Hughes

Hundreds of people are expected to gather at the state capitol Monday to rally for legal pot.

Is the timing right for Pennsylvania?

Pittsburgh Rep. Jake Wheatley thinks so. In August, the Democrat launched a petition to garner support for a bill that would legalize marijuana, allow retail sales, and expunge convictions for acts sanctioned by the legislation. More than 8,000 people have signed on.

That tells Wheatley the same thing a 2017 F&M poll did: Pennsylvanians are “overwhelmingly” ready for marijuana legalization.

“The timing is right for us to do the right thing and allow for adults to make adult decisions,” he said.

Prominent Republicans in the legislature are opposed to legalization, as is Gov. Tom Wolf. Many members of Wolf’s own party disagree, including Auditor General Eugene DePasquale who estimates legal pot could bring in nearly $600 million each year for the state.

While there are just a handful of voting days scheduled before the General Assembly’s two-year session ends Nov. 30, Wheatley plans to introduce his legislation Monday. If it doesn’t pass by then, he’ll have to start again in 2019.

“Even with the limited amount of days, it’s a high priority for my citizens,” he said, adding that his legislation is a “starting point to have the discussion around.”

Wheatley is scheduled to speak at the Monday rally, which was organized by local NORML chapters, the Keystone Cannabis Coalition, and ACLU of Pennsylvania. Groups will also set up information tables in the rotunda and lobby lawmakers, according to an event description.

Considering everything on the General Assembly’s plate before election day, it seems unlikely that there will be any movement on Wheatley’s bill this year. But Wheatley insisted that “anything is possible if you have the will of the people in front of you.”

“No one thought we would have medical marijuana,” he added. “Eventually the people spoke.”

That’s what will need to happen this time around, he said, with more and more “regular, everyday citizens” contacting their elected officials.

“I think we can do something transformational.”

Want some more? Explore other The Incline in Harrisburg stories.