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marijuana

The ban on recreational marijuana will persist in Pennsylvania, even though there has been increasing support within the state to legalize it.

Credit: Caroline Gibson

Despite the Pennsylvania governor's move toward legalizing marijuana in the state, administrators say Penn's marijuana ban is here to stay.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (D) and Lt. Governor John Fetterman (D) are traveling around the state to gauge the public’s receptiveness to legalizing recreational marijuana. The Governor and Lt. Governor have also received support from residents at local town halls, WHYY reported.

Medical marijuana is currently legal in the state for those with physician-approved illnesses, yet recreational use of the drug is illegal.

As Pennsylvania was opening its first medical marijuana dispensaries in January 2018, the Penn administration said the drug would still be prohibited on campus — the same stance the University holds now.

“Under the Drug Free Schools and Communities Act, which is a federal law, college campuses nationwide are unable to permit the use of medical or recreational marijuana, even on campuses where there are legal marijuana programs at the state level," Noelle Melartin, director of the Office of Alcohol and Other Drug Program Initiatives, wrote in an email this month to The Daily Pennsylvanian.

Under the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is illegal under federal law. Schools who violate this law are at risk of losing federal funding, according to the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act Amendments of 1989. However, Inside Higher Ed reported that this threat to funding has never been formally implemented.

Despite the federal barriers, Wharton Cannabis Business Club board member and second-year Wharton MBA student Colin Keeler said he believes the majority of Penn students would support marijuana legalization.

Keeler also said state legalization would further promote legal cannabis education and connect students with opportunities in the legal cannabis business.

“[Legalization will] make our mission a whole lot easier, as long as cannabis is legal in Pennsylvania,” Keeler said. "We need to anticipate full legalization in the next few years."

Political Science professor Marc Meredith also said there would be a strong level of support among students, regardless of ideology.

“Marijuana legalization would be overwhelmingly supported among both Penn students who identify as Democrats, students who identify as Republican, and Penn students who identify with neither of the two major parties,” Meredith said.

He said students would support legalization because of easier access to marijuana and the benefits of moving the drug trade into a more legitimate market.

Despite his view that marijuana legalization has strong support among Penn students, Meredith said the process still faces hurdles in Pennsylvania.

“For laws to change, given the Republicans control the legislature, there’s going to have to be at least some Republican buy-in to the changing law too,” Meredith said. “Until there’s evidence that that’s happening, I wouldn’t expect there to be much immediate policy change.”

While speaking in front of Philadelphia's Chamber of Commerce in February, Gov. Wolf referenced New York and New Jersey's push towards marijuana legalization and questioned how Pennsylvania could respond. 

“We can do one of two things. We can duck our head in the sand, or we can put our heads up and ask what is happening here,” Wolf said. “And is it time for us to start thinking differently about this?”

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