By: Dan Bartkowiak
The first stop is in the bag for Lt. Governor John Fetterman’s Weed Tour, oops – his “Listening Tour” – and here are my takeaways from attending the tour stop in Harrisburg.
1. The tour is a public relations ploy aimed at giving the Wolf administration cover to support recreational marijuana.
Lt. Governor John Fetterman, in the middle of the meeting, made sure his cameraman was ready, and then asked for a show of hands of those supporting legalizing recreational marijuana followed by those opposed. He said he would do this at every meeting. He did this rather than take a tally as people walked in or — even better — simply relying on the comment cards placed on every seat with an option to circle “Support” or “Oppose”. No — instead he put everyone on the spot (and on camera) for where they stand on this contentious issue. One woman complained to his staff at the end of the night about being put on the spot in this way, telling them that those sitting near her called her a loser and booed her when she raised her hand in opposition to legalization.
In my view, this tour is an effort by Lt. Gov. Fetterman to provide cover for Governor Wolf if and when — perhaps in budget negotiations — he comes out in support of legalizing recreational marijuana. Shavonnia Corbin-Johnson, a spokeswoman for Lt Gov. Fetterman, says he intends to have his 67-county tour wrapped up by mid-June — just in time to coincide with the state’s June 30th budget deadline.
So for Dauphin County — with a population of over 275,000 — the crowd of around 150 was lopsided in favor of legalizing marijuana, with my unofficial estimate of those who spoke at the mic being 33-to-5 in favor of legalization.
2. Lt. Governor is trying [poorly] to hide his desire to legalize weed.
After a gentleman said he was in favor of recreational marijuana and that he was from Alaska, a state that has legalized recreational marijuana, Lt. Governor Fetterman chimed in (despite saying this event would not be a Q&A), “Would you classify Alaska as conservative or progressive?”
Then, when it came my time to speak, I directed attention to Lt. Governor Fetterman about his being quoted saying, “We should go full-on Colorado” in his support for legalizing recreational marijuana. He quickly interrupted me to clarify that he is not favoring any position at these events.
I then proceeded to list out a variety of harmful effects recreational marijuana has had on Colorado. My comments were written, contained to one page with 12-point font. There was no set time limit on speakers. People before and after me went longer but yet I was the only one he cut off before my concluding statement.
The elephant in the room is Lt. Governor feigning openness and impartiality despite his public statements for full-blown legalization.
3. Just as with expanded gambling, some state officials are motivated by the money in supporting marijuana legalization.
There were four seats on the stage but only two people were present there; Lt. Governor Fetterman and State Representative Patty Kim (D-Harrisburg). Rep. Kim gave some brief introductory comments, including:
“As I’m sitting in Appropriations hearings for the next three weeks or so, we have a $1.8 billion structural deficit. And so, I am open to hearing about any ideas that can give us reoccurring revenues to keep our state moving forward.
With Governor Wolf emphasizing “no new taxes” in his proposed budget this year, how are we going to pay for his over $34 billion spending plan? Lt. Governor’s “Listening Tour” absolutely shows their cards: legalizing recreational marijuana is going to be presented as a “solution” to not raising taxes. We’re going to need people across Pennsylvania encouraging our elected officials – especially legislative leaders – to withstand the pressure and stop full legalization.
4. The most repeated public comment: “No one has died from marijuana.”
There were different themes people throughout the night like people who have benefited from medicinal marijuana or the criminal and social injustice of not legalizing recreational marijuana. There was a mother of three who is joyous to smoke marijuana in the home because it controls her anxiety.
But the comment that I heard repeated three times verbatim, and received the biggest applause from the pro-marijuana crowd, was that no one has died from marijuana. That sounds a lot like the lies from Big Tobacco in years past.
In Colorado, traffic deaths involving drivers who tested positive for marijuana more than doubled in 2017 (“The number of drivers involved in fatal crashes in Colorado who tested positive for marijuana has risen sharply each year since 2013, more than doubling in that time…” – The Denver Post).
In 2017, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine noted that several children have stopped breathing and gone into comas after consuming marijuana. And a coroner listed “marijuana intoxication” from marijuana-infused cookies as a significant reason for the death of a 19-year-old college student from Wyoming who jumped to his death from a fourth-floor hotel. He had consumed an entire marijuana (THC) cookie, when you’re only supposed to eat a small fraction, right before the incident.
But you keep telling yourself that marijuana hasn’t killed anyone.
Here are upcoming stop locations on this Weed Tour. Will YOU plan to attend and take others with you?
- Newport (Perry County): Tuesday, February 12th, 6pm – 7:30pm @ Newport Public Library, 316 N 4th Street
- Mechanicsburg (Cumberland County): Wednesday, February 13, 6pm – 7:30pm @ American Legion Post 109, 224 W Main Street
- Erie (Erie County): Saturday, February 16, 11am – 12:30pm @ Jefferson Educational Society, 3207 State Street
- Warren (Warren County): Saturday, February 16, 3pm – 4:30pm @ Warren Public Library, 205 Market Street
Dan Bartkowiak is the Director of Communications for Pennsylvania Family Institute.