Musicians, including rapper Wiz Khalifa, helped celebrate the inauguration of Pennsylvania’s new governor on Tuesday—and while it was a lighthearted affair, marijuana policy came up in subtle and less-than-subtle ways.
Gov. Josh Shapiro’s (D) list of celebrity attendees ran the gamut, but at least two of them saw an opportunity to bring up cannabis reform. After the indie band Mt. Joy finished its song “Astrovan,” for example, frontman Matt Quinn joked about the policy implications in the lyrics.
“We’re singing songs about doobie-smoking Jesus, and Wiz Khalifa is also on the program,” Quinn said, as PennLive reported. “There might be certain initiatives that we would like to happen.”
Wiz Khalifa, for his part, didn’t quite beat around the bush, saying: “I’m about two things, peace and love. And if you’re 21 and older, smoke some weed!”
The rapper made the comment after performing one of his best-known songs, “Young, Wild & Free.” An iconic line from that song—where the artist sings “so what we smoke weed”—was curiously omitted during the set, PennLive noted.
Shapiro does support legalization, and he made it a tenet of his gubernatorial campaign. But as it stands, it remains illegal to smoke marijuana in Pennsylvania, regardless of whether the person is 21 and older.
The former state attorney general has said that he believes legalization could provide an economic boon to the Keystone State and that it’s time for Pennsylvania to catch up with its neighbors in enacting the reform.
“I think a lot of people will be surprised that I actually like [Wiz Khalifa’s] music,” Shapiro told PennLive in an interview ahead of being sworn into the governor’s office. “Thats what I like. I guess it’s acquired taste over time.”
It remains to be seen whether the legislature is prepared to act on cannabis in the new session, however, especially given ongoing uncertainty about the makeup of the legislative body, which saw Democratic gains during the last election but complications in the weeks since. One Democratic member passed since Election Day, and two others have resigned to take other offices.
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Former Gov. Tom Wolf (D) had pressured the legislature to enact a policy change to no avail, though he did issue a total of 2,540 pardons during his tenure, at least a quarter of which were for people with prior marijuana convictions.
Wolf’s clemency total includes 232 people who qualified for relief under a cannabis-specific pardon program that the state facilitated late last year, as well as another 395 that were part of a separate expedited review process for nonviolent marijuana-related offenses.
Former Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D), who was sworn in to the U.S. Senate this month and previously served as chair of the state Board of Pardons (BOP), told Marijuana Moment in October that while the pardons would meaningfully benefit thousands of Pennsylvanians, “the only lasting relief will come when our Republican legislature finally decides to do the right thing and legalize it.”
The former lieutenant governor previously said that he wanted to process cannabis clemency for as many people as possible before leaving office.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania officials announced last month that they are awarding nearly $19 million in grants, partially funded by medical marijuana tax revenue, to help substance misuse treatment professionals pay down their student loans.
Photo courtesy of Martin Alonso.