The political landscape for cannabis in PA
When we look at the political landscape of 2016 we see hemp passing soon but no further statewide victories are possible.
Representative Ed Gainey will be introducing a bill for statewide decriminalization in the house and Representative Jordan Harris is introducing a bill for full legalization.
For those of you who do not know, the Pennsylvania General Assembly works in two year legislative sessions. The current two year session began in January of 2015 and ends in December of 2016. Anything introduced in that two year session, whether introduced in month one or month 23, must pass within that time period or it dies. Almost no bill introduced this late into the session, or any bill being considered now for the first time has any chance at all of passing, especially a bill concerning something as controversial as “marijuana”.
What Gainey’s bill and Harris’s bill will accomplish is for us to really get the conversation going and for us to build support and educate the public while we build this movement strong enough to force change.
KCC supports FULL LEGALIZATION OF CANNABIS and home grows.
We believe that there is very little appetite for full legalization in the house or the senate. If votes were taken right now in the senate and house it would probably lose 45-5 in the senate and like 170-30 in the house, and that’s looking at it optimistically.
Decriminalization though is another matter. We believe that there is zero chance of getting it in 2016. However, we think there is a 75% chance we can get it in 2017 and near 100% chance of getting it by 2018.
KCC will always be a strong voice for full legalization and will take every opportunity that we can to speak out for full legalization. We think though the next logical step though and the most attainable victory is statewide decriminalization so we will put most of our efforts in that area. It’s part of the 3 step plan we’ve been advocating for the last 3 years.
So if we can not get statewide decriminalization or legalization this year then where do we put our efforts for the rest of 2016?
For KCC, we feel the answer is in the cities. The machinery of the state moves slowly and it takes a huge movement to force change. City councils are much smaller, more streamlined. One or two or three leaders with a couple dozen people just showing up can persuade cities to adopt decriminalization ordinances. In some places where it is not possible to pass ordinances we can get them to pass resolutions of support for statewide decriminalization.
When the next two year legislative session begins in January we will be in a much stronger position if we can pass decrim ordinances in more cities, or at least get the conversation going everywhere.
Here is where we would like KCC and our members or supporters to work on. These are the cities that I think change is possible and would be key to getting statewide decrim.
6. State College
10. Wilkes Barre
There are many other places where change may be possible or where it would be productive to get the conversations started. We don’t have to “win” in each of these places to be effective. We have to show that decriminalization is being considered all over the state.
Right now in the general assembly there is a bit of “marijuana fatigue”. They are a little sick of hearing about it. They just passed medical cannabis and are about to pass industrial hemp. We are not going to let up though.
Some were suspicious that medical cannabis was a Trojan Horse for the legalization movement. Pushing hard for decrim or legalization right now somewhat confirms their suspicions. We heard that there is already this push back from the Senators we have met with.
However, we believe that the support IS there for decrim and we are going to push as hard as we can. But it also makes political sense to give them just a little bit of breathing room. This is an election year and the regulations for medical cannabis are being drafted. The last thing we want is for fear of the push for legalization to make them make the regulations any stricter and harsh than they are already going to be.
This is why our focus though for the rest of 2016 will be on the cities. Which is not to say that we are not going to push at all statewide. We will. We want to build support and be prepared to go advocate and lobby full force in January when the bill is reintroduced for the next session.
KCC plans to rally in Lancaster, York, Reading and Wilkes Barre this year. We will use those rallies to push for each of those cities to pass decriminalization ordinances while getting the word out about the need for statewide reform, making the case for both decriminalization and full legalization.
And speaking about it being an election year
Lastly and perhaps most importantly for 2016 – VOTE!! This is an election year and an important one at that. Make it your priority to know where the candidates stand on our issue and vote accordingly! Stay tuned, we will be creating voting guides to help let you know all the candidates positions.
~Les Stark & Erica McBride