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Wednesday February 9, 2022

By Trevor Ross

Image of John Fetterman speaking at an event. News

John Fetterman has served as the Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania since 2019 after serving fourteen years as mayor of Braddock, PA. During his tenure he has become a leading progressive voice for criminal justice reform, higher wages, and perhaps most notably, cannabis reform.

In fact, in the summer of 2020, the Lt. Gov. made national headlines by hanging a cannabis flag from his office balcony, prompting state Republicans to sneak a provision into a budget bill banning the display of unapproved flags on Capitol grounds — a provision he went on to defy only eight weeks later.

An Interview with Lt. Governor John Fetterman

Mr. Fetterman is currently running for the US senate seat being vacated by retiring Senator Pat Toomey, and was kind enough to speak with PotGuide about his outlook for cannabis legalization both in Pennsylvania and nationally in the new year.

Trevor Ross: What real-world changes can Pennsylvanians expect for cannabis in 2022 and beyond?

John Fetterman: I don’t think realistically there’s a path to legalization for Pennsylvania simply because it’s a political year and it’s an election. But something seismic did happen last year: we had a Republican introduce a Republican bill to legalize marijuana in Pennsylvania, which is a huge quantum leap. And he called it at the time “inevitable,” which is a remarkable change of fortune. It is inevitable, and it is gonna happen. But in 2022, [with] sides dug in on redistricting and all the other contentious issues, I don’t see it. But the good news is that it’s inevitable, and we’re moving in that direction.

TR: How will Pennsylvania differ from other states with cannabis?

JF: I think we're going to have the benefit of learning from states like Colorado and other early adoptive states. I think we’ll take a much deeper dive and stand on the shoulder of some of the earlier states. It’s gonna be a boon for Pennsylvania. It’s gonna be an amazing opportunity for criminal justice reform, job creation, tax revenue, etc. There is literally zero downside. This is a substance that’s widely used by millions of Pennsylvanians already, so it’s not like we’re introducing a new substance to the population. It’s already here, it’s just we are making it safer, we are making it taxable, we are making it in the open and we are removing the criminality that traps 20,000 Pennsylvanians every year.

TR: What do you think the prospects are for cannabis being legalized federally?

JF: I sure hope so! The fact that it's still a Schedule I drug is the real tragedy. The fact that veterans, and researchers, and banking are hamstrung by this absurd idea that it belongs in the class with substances like meth or heroin is insane. I don’t know a single conservative that thinks it belongs in Schedule I.

Image of John Fetterman.
Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is a strong advocate for federal cannabis reform. photo credit

That’s the minimum that should happen right now. I have not met one single person who has argued, or would argue, that it belongs as a Schedule I substance. It’s absurd. I’ve said this time and time again: the party that seizes legalization and rides it is going to reap the political benefits from it. It’s widely popular among Democrats and significantly popular among conservatives, and I think the support will go even higher once people have an alternative to alcohol or pain pills. It’s a no-brainer.

TR: What actions can citizens take to aid cannabis reform?

JF: If you live in a conservative state or a conservative district, call and write your legislators and ask, “What are we doing here?” It’s ridiculous. We need the money, we need to get the government out — for me it’s a freedom issue. People need to remind their legislators: it’s a freedom issue. I’m an adult, and this is a substance I could grow with my tomatoes — in fact in states like Arizona you can grow it with your tomatoes!

We are ruining people’s lives everyday in this country with a criminal record for consuming something that has no overdose deaths. Meanwhile, I could drive to a liquor store and buy a gallon of grain alcohol and drink myself to death this afternoon. And stop at a casino on the way home and gamble away my life savings. So it’s utterly absurd, and people need to remind their legislators.

TR: Just stay on them then?

JF: Just stay on ‘em. And be vocal about it. We all have a platform now. We’re all on social media. Be vocal about it. I’m not even someone that smokes it! This isn’t me trying to get better stuff. It’s a benefit to everybody whether you consume cannabis or not. Legalization is absolute[ly], unabashedly, a positive for society. Whether you consume it or not, whether you are pro or against it, it’s already here, it’s legal in many of our states. We need to get it permanently out of the shadows all across the country, and allow all the benefits to accrue [in] every corner of the country. And the fact that we still schedule it with truly dangerous and highly addictive substances is absurd.

Mr. Fetterman still resides in Braddock, PA, in a renovated Chevrolet dealership.

When do you think about legalization in Pennsylvania and beyond? Share in the comments!

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons (license)


Trevor Ross Trevor Ross

Trevor Ross is a writer, medical marijuana patient and cannabis advocate. He holds an MFA in writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has previously worked as a copywriter, a teacher, a bartender, and followed Seattle sports for SidelineBuzz. Originally from Washington state, you can find him now working in his garden or restoring his house in Scranton, PA, and he can be reached through LinkedIn.

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