The coronavirus pandemic has sunk America into one of the greatest economic depressions in recent history. But for Pennsylvania, there may be a silver lining hiding in this dark cloud: The financial woes brought on by the pandemic may inspire Keystone State lawmakers to finally legalize weed.
Earlier this year, Pennsylvania Representative Jake Wheatley (D) introduced an adult-use legalization bill in the state House. Wheatley also introduced a similar bill last year, but it was shot down by the state's Republican leadership. At first, it seemed like this year’s bill might face the same fate, but the COVID-19 outbreak may have just convinced GOP leaders to change their tune.
Since Governor Tom Wolf announced his shelter-in-place order in March, Pennsylvania lost nearly $4 billion in tax revenue. And as the quarantine continues, that tax deficit will continue to grow. Last month, the state's Independent Fiscal Office warned that the state would experience a “significant reduction” in essential services. Lawmakers are unlikely to solve this problem by raising overall state taxes, as nearly 2 million state residents have filed for unemployment since the quarantine began.
“A hole of $4 billion may be a very conservative number,” said state Senator Tom Killion (R) to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “We won’t know what the real damage will be until after July 15... It’s a whole new world here. So everything is on the table.”