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Midterms could be pivotal for Pa.'s legal pot push

Plus, what Pa.'s undecided voters are thinking.


A daily newsletter by Spotlight PA

Your Postmaster: Colin Deppen
October 11, 2022
Legalization limbo, undecided voters, poison gas, legislative loss, and Philly's steam-powered 'climate change solution.' It's Tuesday. Welcome.

Legalizing recreational cannabis has gained bipartisan, if not universal, legislative support in Pennsylvania, but this year's governor's race could ensure it remains a pipe dream for advocates.

Republican nominee Doug Mastriano is an ardent critic who argues legal cannabis "destroys" societies and doesn't produce significant revenue for states, per The Inquirer, but studies paint a different picture.

Democratic nominee Josh Shapiro, meanwhile, previously opposed adult-use cannabis but now says he supports it, with "certain conditions that he has laid out in broad terms," the paper adds. Read the full (paywalled) report: Legal weed in Pennsylvania? Not if Doug Mastriano can stop it.

THE CONTEXT: Outgoing Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf has long urged the legislature to pass a recreational cannabis bill.

The pressure to do so has mounted inside the Capitol as more neighboring states follow through, but lawmaker opposition, which has long reflected law enforcement opposition, remains.  

Judith Cassel, a cannabis lawyer, believes the legislature would have already approved recreational cannabis were it not for large infusions of federal COVID-19 aid that swelled state coffers and lessened the incentive.

Cassel now predicts it will happen "in the next 12 months."

The next governor would still have to sign off.

The federal government could also legalize marijuana nationwide, which is why the issue has been a focal point in Pennsylvania's ongoing U.S. Senate race between Democratic nominee John Fetterman, who strongly supports legal weed, and GOP nominee Mehmet Oz, who does not.


"Suppose you were the dumbest person in the world. Now suppose you were a reporter for New York Magazine. But I repeat myself."

—A spokesperson for GOP U.S. Senate candidate Mehmet Oz when asked by New York magazine about Oz's medical experiments on dogs
Read our complete coverage, plus key dates, campaign finance data, sample ballots & more at our Election Center 2022 website.

Spotlight on the Issues: Where Mastriano and Shapiro stand on:

»  College Funding & Student Debt
»  Energy & Environment
»  Crime & Justice
»  LGTBQ Rights

More issue analyses will be published in the coming weeks. 

A complete listing of Spotlight PA voter guides:  

»  Everything you need to know about mail ballots
»  Your complete guide to the candidates for governor
»  How to vet the candidates on your midterm ballot
»  No constitutional amendments on the ballot, but big ones loom
»  How to serve as a poll worker on Nov. 8
»  These Pa. voters haven't missed a Nov. election for 50+ years
»  How Spotlight PA will cover Pennsylvania's 2022 election

En Español:

»  Una guía básica para investigar a los candidatos
»  Cómo trabajar como trabajador electoral el 8 de noviembre
»  Todo lo que necesita saber para votar por correo
»  Su guía completa de los candidatos a gobernador

Support Spotlight PA's vital election coverage by making a gift now.
» ABC27: Mastriano running mate dodges election denial question
» PENNLIVE: Watch PennLive's editorial board meeting with Shapiro
» POLITICO: Pa. doctors are campaigning in unprecedented ways
» POST-GAZETTE: Mastriano may be gaining, despite polls (paywall)
» WHYY: How Mastriano, Shapiro plan to fix Pa.'s roads and bridges
The moon and Jupiter over Harrisburg, via @yatskoSend us your photos, use #PAGems on Instagram, or tag us @spotlightpennsylvania.
THE UNDECIDED: The Inquirer (paywall) spoke with some of the 8% to 10% of Pennsylvania voters who are still undecided in the U.S. Senate race, and the 7% to 13% who are undecided in the governor's race. The paper offers this important caveat: "There's an instinct to think of undecided voters as politically engaged moderates wrestling with policy contrasts… Most are just not paying attention yet."

RADON RISKS: Pennsylvania's geology means people here are more likely to be exposed to radon than residents of other states. But TribLIVE reports few schools in southwestern Pennsylvania are testing for the gas, which is odorless, colorless, and radioactive, putting students and teachers at risk. Radon is the second-leading cause of lung cancer and often seeps into buildings through basement cracks.

IN MEMORIAM: State Rep. Tony DeLuca (D., Allegheny), the most senior member of the state House, died on Sunday at the age of 85. DeLuca had lymphoma and is being remembered for his work on health care and end-of-life issues. Chris Potter of WESA reports DeLuca will remain on Nov. 8 ballots in Allegheny County, where he was facing a Green Party challenge. If he wins, a special election will be held.

CALL VOLUME: Allegheny County's Landlord-Tenant Hotline is in need of more volunteers as eviction filings return to pre-pandemic levels. Eviction controls and a rental assistance program put in place during the pandemic are over now. Antoinette Oliver of law firm Meyer, Unkovic & Scott told WESA: "We have seen an explosion in calls. Where we would get 10 or 15 calls a week, we have over 50 calls a week."

IN CONTACT: The Capitol siege case against a North Carolina Proud Boy convicted on a rare seditious conspiracy charge revealed new, incendiary communications from a Carlisle man labeled an upper-tier member of the far-right group, LNP (paywall) reports. "We can't let them steal this election," John Charles Stewart said, per the FBI. Stewart has not been charged. His home was searched in March.

'DEPLORABLE HISTORY': Philadelphia is apologizing for medical experiments that were conducted on incarcerated people at Holmesburg Prison between 1951 and 1974. Philly Voice reports the testing mostly used Black prisoners to study a wide range of chemical compounds.

ONE AND DONE: Pennsylvania's election officials would like to remind everyone that except in rare circumstances, voters can only drop off their own ballot at a mailbox, drop box, or county election office. The rule is sometimes overlooked. Gov. Tom Wolf violated it himself in 2021.

INDELIBLE IMAGES: Chris Briem has a remembrance of photographer Joel DeGrand, who spent a decade documenting "Pittsburgh's evolution from an industrial center to an economically diverse city," per his obit

ASK AWAY: Two State College moms have set up a free "Ask a Mom" advice stand at Penn State for any students who might need it. They also have homemade cookies and a Welsh springer spaniel named Ellie.

STEAM LOOPS: NPR reports a climate change solution may exist in Philadelphia and the city's century-old steam loop system, but notable entities are moving away from the tech.

Unscramble and send your answer to scrambler@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA swag. Answers submitted by 6 p.m. on issue date will be counted.

Yesterday's answer: Command

Congrats to our daily winners: Michelle T., Irene R., Becky C., Elaine C., Cheryl T., Barbara F., Bruce B., Patricia M., Mark O., Kevin M., George S., Jody A., Susan N.-Z., Nola D., Brandie K., Wendy A., Joel S., Judith D., John F., Don H., Kim C., Steve H., Jodi R., Mike B., Mark C., Al M., Beth T., John A., Chuck M., Doris T., Steve D., Kimberly D., Deborah S., Marty M., Tom O., Craig W., Dianne K., James B., Fred O., Fred H., Bruce B., Barbara O., Anne Z., Karen W., Sharon J.-B., David W., Rose Ann K., Bill S., John B., John P., James B., Stanley J., Starr B., Daniel M., Ed M., Rick L., Susan D., Mary Jo J., Jasperdean K., Catherine J., Tim W., Mary Kay M., John H., Jane R., Nancy S., and Kate P.
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