Pittsburgh’s Jake Wheatley will try to legalize marijuana — again

Gov. Tom Wolf has ever-so-slightly changed his position on legal weed — but the GOP hasn’t.

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

HARRISBURG — Pittsburgh state Rep. Jake Wheatley has again put forth a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana in the commonwealth.

“Pennsylvanians have spoken,” the Democrat wrote in a memo, released Thursday, seeking co-sponsors in the state House. “They recognize the once ugly stigma of cannabis is now just a part of history and want the Commonwealth to move into the future. We can take a step towards the future with the passage of my legislation.”

According to the memo, the bill would dedicate revenue to “student debt forgiveness, after school programs and affordable housing.” Auditor General Eugene DePasquale estimates that regulating and taxing marijuana could bring in $581 million a year.

Wheatley last year introduced similar legislation, which garnered just 12 co-sponsors.

While leading Republicans in the General Assembly remain opposed to legalization, Gov. Tom Wolf has changed his tune. In December, Wolf said it was time for Pennsylvania to take a “serious and honest look” at legalizing recreational marijuana. Just a few months earlier, the Democrat had said the commonwealth wasn’t ready for legal pot.

“I’m just trying to be a realist,” Wolf told reporters of his change of heart, noting that neighboring New Jersey and New York are both on their way to legalization.

In order to legalize marijuana in Pennsylvania, a bill would have to pass both Republican-controlled chambers in the General Assembly. Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman called the idea “reckless and irresponsible,” while his counterpart in the House, Majority Leader Bryan Cutler, opposed medical marijuana.

Wheatley has not been deterred by Republican opposition in the past, previously telling The Incline it didn’t seem like medical marijuana could actually pass — until it did.