“[Democrats,] if you’re to the right of South Dakota on anything, you should use that as a moment to recalibrate your core values.” – Penn. Lt. Gov. John FettermanTweet
Writing in an op-ed published today at the Washington Post, Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman slams the Democratic Party as being out-of-touch with Americans’ evolving views on marijuana legalization.
“[The Democratic Party’s] platform on weed is now officially and politically to the right of the state of South Dakota,” notes Fetterman. “I’m in the camp that says that if you’re to the right of South Dakota on anything, you should use that as a moment to recalibrate your core values.”
Describing marijuana legalization as “the most hotly discussed public policy topic,” Fetterman lambasted the Democrats for failing on an issue that disproportionately impacts their strongest base of support: people of color.
“Democrats’ historical and current platform on weed is cowardly and on the wrong side of history,” Fetterman explains. “We have known for decades that Black and brown communities are disproportionately prosecuted and harmed, but the federal government and many states haven’t done anything to stop it.”
Fetterman has made no secret of his support for legalization. From his second floor office in the state capitol, Fetterman has been flying various flags, including the LGBTQ rainbow flag and one large black banner with a green cannabis leaf. The display has so offended Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled legislature that they tucked into an omnibus spending bill a prohibition on flying any flags outside or on the capitol building except the national and state flag and the flag commemorating POWs and MIAs from war.
Fetterman has since broken that law by keeping his marijuana flag on display. In a tweet, Fetterman joked, “It’s kinda flattering that they changed Pennsylvania law just for me,” adding that he wouldn’t take the flag down until marijuana is legalized in the commonwealth.
Fetterman described the absurdity of marijuana prohibition in the Keystone State. “In Pennsylvania and in most states, it is perfectly legal to wake up in the morning, smoke a carton of Marlboros, chug a fifth of vodka, take a pinch of Copenhagen, pop an OxyContin and gamble away your entire life savings in a state-approved casino,” Fetterman wrote. “But get caught with marijuana, and you’re branded a criminal for life.”
Current Pennsylvania law treats a possession charge for less than 30 grams of marijuana as a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine. First-time offenders are eligible for conditional release, while subsequent convictions can lead to double the penalty. Possessing the paraphernalia one uses to smoke that marijuana is a misdemeanor that can earn one 6-to-12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine. Cultivating even one marijuana seedling in Pennsylvania is a felony, punishable by 2½-to-5 years in prison and a $15,000 fine.
While Pennsylvania does have a medical marijuana law, that law does not allow patients and caregivers to cultivate their own cannabis, and forbids the smoking of medical marijuana. Pennsylvania also does not honor the medical marijuana cards from any other state.