The state of cannabis amid the COVID-19 epidemic has been one of interesting disparity. On the one hand, sales have spiked massively as people find themselves free to experiment and ample excuses to curb some of the ever-present stress and anxiety that this virus has brought about. With that, states like Oregon have seen incredible cannabis sales, happy customers, and happy cannabis retailers as well. California represents the opposite end of the spectrum, where an already fractured system has been put under even more stress with the economy on lockdown. With both of these in mind, many states around the nation are looking to successful states for how they can positively implement cannabis regulation. Will Pennsylvania be the next state to legalize cannabis?
15 Democratic senators in the state signed a letter earlier this week that attempted to convince the state’s Governor, Tom Wolf, that legalizing cannabis is the only way forward. While the intent to legalize has been present for quite a while, this most recent push is decidedly COVID-related.
What’s interesting is the way their letter reads almost like an economic stimulus package and less a proposal for legalizing cannabis. Perhaps this is just one strategy to further incentivize cannabis legalization to those who may need an economic purpose behind the decision. The letter repeatedly references the strong cannabis sales in states with streamlined, helpful regulations. As the economy continues to dip and COVID cases surge which exacerbates the issue, there’s a natural reaction to look to anything which may alleviate the problem.
However, no one is saying that cannabis is a panacea which will lift the state out of their economic troubles. What this proposal largely does is ensure that the next economic dip has at least one more industry which has proved to draw in customers and generate revenue no matter what. The letter written by Pennsylvania senators also points out that the economy won’t recover immediately, and just as it took many years for employment rates to recover after the 2008 financial crisis, economists expect the current economic problems to be issues even after the virus itself has been dealt with. In this sense, legalizing cannabis really is like a stimulus package, but designed as a long-term way to prop up the economy.
As has been the case in many states across the country, cannabis has become an essential business. What this says about cannabis use is one thing, but in this context it speaks much louder about cannabis’ economic value. Even as we stand on the precipice of another recession, those same states can expect cannabis to remain a lively industry. That represents tax going into the state’s pocket, retailers being able to keep more staff even during hard times, and thus more community members have more cash flow to stimulate other industries. Cannabis isn’t just a social or political issue, it’s business that rakes in billions of dollars a year and continues to see massive sales even while the country is in the grip of a serious economic downturn. It will be interesting to see if Pennsylvania will continue to push to legalize cannabis.
Photo by Ad Meskens