Pennsylvania Lt. Governor John Fetterman
Pennsylvania Lt. Governor John Fetterman began his statewide listening tour with one goal in mind.
“It’s really about accumulating story after story of people across Pennsylvania as the justification for legalizing (marijuana) or for not … Lehigh Country is as important as Philadelphia, is as important as Juniata, as important as Erie and we’re going everywhere.”
Muhlenberg College played host to Fetterman’s tour, with state and county representatives in attendance. The room was open to the public, giving community members a chance to speak their minds on the issue. The result was a collection of stories and pleas to the four-person panel in resounding favor of legalization. In fact, at the conclusion of the forum, Fetterman asked the crowd to vote. There wasn’t one hand raised in opposition.
Macungie native and retired registered nurse Frances Rekai advocated on behalf of the elderly.
“It’s way past time to legalize recreational marijuana and medical marijuana for chronic pain management after all other options have been tried,” Rekai said.
Chronic pain was just one of the many different ailments the crowd identified to the panel as treatable with the use of marijuana. Several cancer survivors stepped to the microphone and explained during cancer treatments, they were consuming cannabis along with the medical treatments administered to them. The descriptions were of relief and gratitude for the way the marijuana helped them to fight past the pains and conquer their treatments. Some even identified the plant as the true cure to their cancers.
Their thoughts, however, did not go unquestioned. A young male, who identified as a nurse at a nearby hospital, made the statement that he understood a person needing it for medical attention, but asked if recreational marijuana was really needed. The question of the need to legalize recreational marijuana is not uncommon.
New Jersey state government, in March, was to vote on a bill proposed by Gov. Phil Murphy to legalize recreational marijuana. However, Murphy called off the vote and cited not having enough support to pass the bill through. He vowed to have the necessary votes very soon and that legalization was coming to New Jersey.
“Legalizing adult-use marijuana is a monumental step to reducing disparities in our criminal justice system,” Murphy said in a media statement to the Asbury Park Press. “I believe that this legislation will establish an industry that brings fairness and economic opportunity to all of our communities.”
This statement relates back to another main theme in the open forum; law enforcement and the punishment for marijuana-related crimes. Many speakers cited unfair and unjust laws that seem to target a minority demographic. Others felt having differing laws in separate counties creates a system for the people to fail. One woman stated to Fetterman she simply wants to be able to feel “secure in all parts of our state.” Many clapped in agreement.
The listening section lasted for roughly an hour and a half, with Fetterman standing and calling for a public vote at the end.
“Well, this has never happened. We have been to 31 counties and this is the first time this has happened,” Fetterman said after seeing zero hands in opposition of legalization.
This vote may not have counted to legislature, but to the listening panel, it may have left a lasting impression on the community’s thoughts on the legalization of recreational marijuana.