Pennsylvania is facing a major revenue loss due to the Coronavirus pandemic. One State Senator is sponsoring legislation he believes would help close that gap.

It’s an issue that’s long divided Democrats and Republicans. But State Senator Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia) is trying to kick off bipartisan conversations to pass legislation legalizing adult-use recreational marijuana.

“This is a much better idea than broad-based tax increases that we’re going to need for revenue. It’s certainly better than draconian service cuts when we need to be expanding services, not contracting them,” Senator Street explains.

Senator Street says the majority of Pennsylvanians support legalizing recreational marijuana. He says there are social justice components of legalization, saying current laws aren’t equally enforced. Senator Street also pints to the success of the medical marijuana program  Not to mention the potential revenue. Auditor General Eugene DePasquale estimates it would bring in $600 million per year. Senator Street insists this bill would help offset the shortages brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic.

“Auditor General DePasquale’s estimates were 600 million dollars a year in recurring revenue, so if you do a 5-year plan- that would be 3 billion dollars in a 5-year plan. The industry estimates have gone as high as one billion or 1.5 billion,” Senator Street explains.

Under the proposal, recreational marijuana would be legal for those 21-years or older. It would also allow residents to grow up to six marijuana plants in their homes for personal use, and allow micro-growers to grow in their homes and sell to processors and dispensaries. In regards to social justice, it would expunge any cannabis-related criminal convictions and commute sentences for those convictions. Unlike legislative proposals on the same topic, recreational marijuana would be regulated by the Department of Agriculture.

“Adult-use cannabis should be regulated by the Department of Ag as an agricultural crop. People forget that cannabis is likely to be not just a boom on the retail side with people using it, the consumer side, it’s going to be a huge boom to our agricultural industry,” says Senator Street.

Senator Street sent a letter to Senate and Republican leadership earlier this month to try to jump-start conversations on the topic. It was signed by more than a dozen other Senators, all Democrats. Senator Street does say some Republican Senators have expressed interest in the bill, who told him there are circumstances in which they could support such a measure.

“I think the question is now— what do those circumstances look like, and let’s put a bill together that Democratic and Republican members can support,” explains Senator Street.

Senate Bill 350 is sponsored by both Senator Street and Senator Daylin Leach (D- Delaware, Montgomery). It’s currently sitting in the Senate Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee, where it was referred to back in October. We reached out to the Committee Chair’s office for comment but have yet to hear back.

To learn more about the provisions of Senate Bill 350, read the co-sponsorship memorandum here: