Gov. Wolf Blowing Smoke with Alarming Statements on Marijuana

Sep 3, 2020 | 3 comments

In calling for commercialization, he wrongly denies the significant health risks associated with marijuana.

(HARRISBURG, PA – September 3, 2020) Today, at a press conference in Harrisburg, Governor Tom Wolf proved he is willing to sacrifice the health and safety of Pennsylvanians – even in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis – primarily for the sake of profit. 

“Wolf characterized the opportunity for profit from pot commercialization as ‘heaven-sent,’ demonstrating a crass disregard for the health of Pennsylvanians — especially its children and teens,” says Dan Bartkowiak, Director of Communications for Pennsylvania Family Institute. “Marijuana products in legal states are often highly potent and consistently packaged and marketed in ways that attract youth — who are most likely to be negatively impacted and become addicted to the drug. It’s the Big Tobacco strategy of getting lifetime customers, applied to marijuana.”

This is appalling – especially for a Governor and administration whose COVID-19 mandates have stretched Pennsylvanians and our economy to the brink, all in the name of protecting our health and safety. Schools are closed, children and teens are marooned, and Governor Wolf says it’s “heaven sent?”  

Wolf added this alarming statement: “I’m not sure how anybody would see this as something that is addictive.” This outright denial of the addictive nature of marijuana is completely contrary to what is demonstrated by numerous health outlets. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says one in ten marijuana users will become addicted – and if teens start using it their likelihood for addiction goes up to one in six. American Addiction Centers, the nation’s leading provider of addiction treatment, says marijuana is addictive. The Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) says the cannabis plant has addictive properties. And Dr. Dean Drosnes, Medical Director for Caron Treatment Centers, who specialize in addiction treatment and is based here in Pennsylvania, says there is no question marijuana is a drug that can produce addiction.

“Wolf completely ignores the science surrounding this drug,” states Bartkowiak. “But perhaps that’s typical of someone that’s blinded by the dollar signs. He’s putting profit – as inflated as its projections are – before people’s health and well-being.” 

“The Wolf administration admits that marijuana legalization would cause harm,” added Bartkowiak. “Pennsylvania families are sacrificing so much already with the COVID-19 shutdown. Yet despite Governor Wolf saying that this will help Pennsylvania families, science and experience show us that marijuana legalization will harm Pennsylvania families. It is irresponsible for any elected official to push full-marijuana legalization, especially in today’s climate.”

Legalization in other states has shown us that recreational marijuana legalization creates an industry that commercializes and markets highly potent and addictive marijuana products that appeals to children and young adults – a demographic whose brain and body development can be significantly impacted by the use of marijuana.

It’s why it’s all the more discouraging to have Governor Wolf continue to claim that now is the time to legalize recreational marijuana – something even Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden cautions against. Biden is quoted saying “science matters” and that we should “wait until the studies are done” to find out more about the health implications such as its impact on the developing brain.

The latest science continues to show there are harmful health impacts of marijuana, especially to teenagers. The CDC recently released new research that shows marijuana use is associated with increased prescription opioid misuse among both adults and adolescents. The American Heart Association also recently recommended, “that people not smoke or vape any substance, including cannabis products, because of the potential harm to the heart, lungs and blood vessels.”

On the same day Governor Wolf announced his push for marijuana legalization in his fall agenda, Quest Diagnostics – a leading workplace safety research group – released a new report showing how marijuana legalization could pose heightened risks to the workplace, especially in safety-sensitive positions like construction operations.

Pennsylvania Family Institute points out how any push for recreational marijuana in the middle of a respiratory virus pandemic is not only harmful, but it is also clearly a political agenda taking advantage of the current crisis. The American Lung Association states marijuana use “clearly damages the human lung.” To claim this pandemic is all the more reason to rush into legalization is a blatant manipulation of the current healthcare situation and not in Pennsylvania’s best interests. 

During the press conference there was only one projected revenue number given – $600 million, which is from Auditor General Eugene DePasquale’s pre-COVID-19 report that relies upon a 35-percent sales tax. This high sales tax would put Pennsylvania among the highest in the nation. Black market sales are certain to continue, just as they have in Colorado, a state with a much lower sales tax (15% – up from 10% in 2017) than that in DePasquale’s report.

The Auditor General’s report also relies heavily on survey data provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), who also have data showing how legalizing marijuana harms more teenagers. SAMHSA has shown how marijuana use is higher among teenagers in states that have legalized it for recreational use — 50-percent higher in “legal” states than in non-legal states (9.4 percent versus 6.3 percent).

“Let’s not usher in another Big Tobacco, adding more harm to families and to an already burdened health care system in Pennsylvania,” concluded Bartkowiak.


Pennsylvania Family Institute is a statewide non-profit organization that has represented thousands of families across the Commonwealth for over 30 years.