Skip to main content
Main content

Landmark Pa. hearings seek a legal pot roadmap

Plus, embattled mail-voting law will remain in place for now.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
March 2, 2022
Spotlight PA's vital work depends on your support. Make a tax-deductible contribution today and you can help power trusted, nonpartisan public-service journalism that holds the powerful to account and preserves our democracy. Thanks! —Colin, PA Post editor
Smoke signals, mail check, micro map, dire warning, MAGA moves, relief runway, and a Ukrainian church in Pa. holds vigil. It's Wednesday.
Want to see your message here? Contact us about sponsoring PA Post.

The push to legalize recreational cannabis in Pennsylvania has newfound political support and added urgency as neighboring states make the move.

With a bipartisan bill pending, the state Senate recently hosted its first hearings on the topic as lawmakers eye the finer points of greenlighting what would be one of the largest adult-use cannabis markets in U.S. history.

Here are the highlights: 

  • Pennsylvania medical marijuana reps warn low taxes on cannabis products will hamper the black market and high taxes will sustain it
  • Levies around 40% are too high, they added; Pennsylvania's ex-auditor general floated a 35% pot tax that would raise $580 million a year.
  • Those same medical marijuana companies want first dibs on recreational sales (this approach stumbled out of the gate when Michigan tried it).
  • Police worry that legal cannabis could complicate DUI checks, but some say the drug is so prevalent it might as well be regulated.

THE CONTEXT: Public support for legalized cannabis in Pennsylvania is higher than ever, hitting 60% in October polling by F&M College.

But political opposition has traditionally followed law enforcement opposition, and while the latter is fading, it remains formidable. 

In a recent op-ed published by news outlets statewide, the head of the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, Scott Bohn, pointed to Colorado in warning of legalization's impacts on teen use, drugged driving, and crime

The conservative Cato Institute, meanwhile, found the data inconclusive or contradictory with recreational pot now legal across 18 U.S. states.

And while GOP leaders in the Pennsylvania legislature have not expressed support for legalization, some have signaled an openness to vetting a proposal. Without their backing, legalization remains a pipe dream.

Asked Monday if an adult-use bill would have any legs in the chamber, House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R., Centre) said: "Shorter than mine."


"The number of alleged violations observed ... is appalling. The company needs to identify why this occurred and present a plan to fix this so the local waters that eventually feed into the Chesapeake Bay are protected."

—Adam Ortiz of the Environmental Protection Agency on water pollution violations at Hanover Foods, one of the largest food processors in the U.S.
» STICKER SHOCK: The Inquirer reports Philadelphia "quietly added surprise fees and 'burdensome' rules" to a "streeteries" program meant to help pandemic-battered restaurants and businesses bounce back.

» EFFICACY RATE: New York State Department of Health researchers found Pfizer's smaller-dose COVID-19 vaccine for children age 5 to 11 went from being 68% effective at preventing infections to 12% effective in weeks

» HOME IMPROVEMENT: Last night's State of the Union address saw President Joe Biden vowing to overhaul U.S. nursing homes via minimum staffing levels, ramped up inspections, and steps to keep COVID-19 at bay.

» MASKING MAP: Masks are no longer recommended by the CDC in most Pennsylvania counties. Here's a complete list, via Patch. Montgomery County, for one, has formally revised its own guidance accordingly.

To find a COVID-19 vaccine, use the federal government's online tool, call 1-800-232-0233, or text your zip code to 438829 (GETVAX).
» THE FINAL STRETCH: Join us Thursday, March 3 at 5 p.m. ET via Zoom for a free Q&A on the court challenges to Pa.'s electoral maps and how they could affect your community. Register for the event here. Have questions for our panelists? Send them to
Snow geese are seen on their annual pilgrimage at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Lebanon County. Thanks for sharing, Robert N.Send us your gems, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
STILL STANDING: Pennsylvania's Supreme Court has overturned a lower court decision that would have pulled the plug on Pennsylvania's two-year-old expanded mail-voting law effective March 15. With an election months away and the high court still set to hear arguments for and against the embattled law, the AP says justices voided the Commonwealth Court decision to give themselves more time to reach a ruling.

GAUGING IMPACT: The 30,000-foot view of Pennsylvania's new state legislative maps is that they'll make the state House more competitive and keep the state Senate about the same. But WHYY reports the local-level impacts are still revealing themselves, with two corners of the House map — one in Harrisburg and its blue-shifting suburbs, the other in moderate Bucks County — offering a more nuanced picture.

CARBON FEE: A new U.N. climate change report viewed as a damning indictment of failed leadership has Gov. Tom Wolf again urging state lawmakers to back anti-climate change measures, including his RGGI-related carbon fee for power plants. With emissions at a six-year high in Pennsylvania, Wolf's fee is mired in GOP-led delays. But 10 states with such fees in place are seeing their power-sector emissions rise, too

BURN BOOK: Jake Corman's "MAGA makeover" continued in Pittsburgh's South Hills on Monday with former top Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway at his side to take aim at Corman's GOP rivals in the governor's race. A Corman campaign adviser, Conway called Doug Mastriano a "show horse" and added of Lou Barletta: "He's a great guy … but he lost (to Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey) in 2018 by 13 points."

END DATE: Allegheny County's pandemic-era rental assistance program is running low on money and will end in May. The nonprofit running it has warned of the potential ramifications for months, PublicSource reports. Advocates are preparing for life after rent relief as state Democrats push to use $500 million in federal pandemic aid to extend such programs. Related legislation has been referred to committee.

OPEN HOUSE: Father Roman Oliiynk has kept St. Mary's Ukrainian Catholic Church in McAdoo, Schuylkill County open for round-the-clock prayer since Russian forces invaded Ukraine. Census data show McAdoo's population has one of the highest shares of Ukrainian ancestry in the U.S.

PLAN B: The City of Sharon will use $100,000 in American Rescue Plan money to fund two downtown redevelopment hires after pandemic-weary business owners balked at a plan to raise the money with a fee. 

RIDE SHARES: With state lawmakers pushing to make electric scooter rentals legal in more cities statewide, Altoona officials heard a pitch from one of the largest scooter rental companies in the country on Monday.

COLD CASE: The college student and DNA savant who helped solve a 58-year-old Hazleton cold case says he's available to help with the investigation of another decades-old crime, this one in Bucks County.

POINT BREAK: Today marks 60 years since Wilt Chamberlain put up 100 points for the Philadelphia Warriors in front of 4,000 fans in Hershey and two days since this incredible basketball finish in Camp Hill.

Unscramble and send your answer to We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag.

*This week's theme: Movies that were set or filmed in Pennsylvania

Yesterday's answer: Adventureland (was filmed in and around Pittsburgh)

Congrats to our daily winners: Wendy A., Becky C., Bill C., Briann M., Ted W., Doris T., Susan N.-Z., Michelle T., Patricia M., Judith D., Karen W., Don H., Craig W., Susan D., Barbara F., Elaine C., Kimberly S., Beth T., Vicki U., Patricia R., Johnny C., Carol D., Nancy S., Margaret D., Daniel M., Jude M., Jodi R., Al M., James B., Kevin M., Fred O., Mike B., Eddy Z., Marisa B., Suzanne S., Pat B., Lex M., Bill S., Sandy S., Skip B., Dianne K., Irene R., Craig E., and Elizabeth W.
Like PA Post? Share it with a friend.

Love PA Post? Chip in to support local journalism.

Forwarded this newsletter? Subscribe here.
Spotlight PA is an independent, non-partisan newsroom powered by The Philadelphia Inquirer in partnership with PennLive/The Patriot-News, TribLIVE/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and WITF Public Media.

Copyright © Spotlight PA / The Philadelphia Inquirer, All rights reserved.

Spotlight PA
225 Market St., Suite 502A
Harrisburg, PA 17101

You're receiving this email because you subscribed to PA Post, a daily newsletter by Spotlight PA.

You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.