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Pennsylvania’s Fetterman has smoke for Biden over weed reform

The President hasn’t lived up to campaign promises about cannabis legalization. Will this larger-than-life Senate candidate finally hold Biden to his word?


Pennsylvania Lt. Governor John Fetterman built his political career on an unconventional image. He’s championed social issues like cannabis reform and is currently on the forefront against conservative-spun myths about the harms of legalizing weed.

So it’s only right that the US Senate candidate leads the charge against President Joe Biden’s glacial movement on federal prohibition. Joe promised that and more in his 2020 campaign. But he hasn’t come through on those commitments in any significant way. Despite saying in July that “no one should be in prison for marijuana.”

In a Monday press release, Fetterman made clear he’ll be pressing the chief commander about his unfulfilled promises when he visits Pennsylvania for Labor Day. And Fetterman doesn’t intend to let the President deflect attention from his inaction any longer.

“It’s long past time that we finally decriminalize marijuana… The president needs to use his executive authority to begin descheduling marijuana…I know firsthand what real crime looks like. Marjiuana does not fit the bill. It’s time to end the hypocrisy on this issue once and for all.”

John Fetterman

Biden’s appearance in the PA cities of Wilkes Barre and Philadelphia will involve speeches on combating rising crime statewide and protecting Americans’ rights and freedoms, reports The Hill. Despite his 2020 campaign promises to decriminalize marijuana and expunge prior convictions, cannabis remains a Schedule I substance 18 months later, and thousands of Americans still sit behind bars on nonviolent cannabis charges.

Andrew Sidman, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice political science department chair, told Politifact that “criminal justice reform is not a place where the President is going to try to spend political capital,” while he focuses on COVID-19, the recession, and his Build Back Better legislation.

That doesn’t sound promising to those holding their breath for federal prohibition to end anytime soon.

It’s high time to legalize PA, too

(Marc Levy / Associated Press)
(Marc Levy / Associated Press)

In a report compiled by NORML, an average of 38 cannabis-related arrests were made each day in Pennsylvania in 2021. While the state has legalized medical marijuana, possession of any amount of cannabis and/or concentrates can result in a $500 fine and/or 30 days in jail. And the limited license opportunities in the medical market mean higher prices and limited supply for PA’s medical marijuana patients.

Fetterman has been described as the “nation’s most outspoken pro-weed politician” for his staunch, and expletive-laden support for cannabis reform dating back to his years as mayor of the steel town Braddock, Pa. He’s been spotted at 4/20 events and calls out fellow candidate hypocrisy—his press release makes a point to call “bullshit” on his opponent, the fraudulent Dr Oz, for conflating weed with harmful crime.

His platform echoes the belief of many activists and leaders that cannabis reform will not only reduce crime, but also create jobs and financially uplift communities in need. In 2019, one of his first acts as Lieutenant Governor was a 67-stop tour of Pennsylvania to gauge public opinion for adult-use cannabis; the resulting report indicated overwhelming support for legalization.

Even as the cannabis industry has weathered controversy and an enormous illicit market, it remains a billion dollar industry. Other countries have realized its federal potential. And as for Pennsylvania: When will communities grow tired of sending tax revenue across the border to New York, New Jersey, and New England?

As Fetterman writes on his “Legal Weed for PA” merch description, which are sold through his official campaign website, “It’s high time that we get our sh*t together and legalize weed in PA + USA.”

Amelia Williams's Bio Image
Amelia Williams

New York-based freelance cannabis journalist Amelia Williams is a graduate of San Francisco State University's journalism program, and a former budtender. Williams has contributed to the San Francisco Chronicle's GreenState, MG Magazine, Culture Magazine, and Cannabis Now, Kirkus Reviews, and The Bold Italic.

View Amelia Williams's articles