(HARRISBURG, PA – February 6, 2024) Today, Governor Josh Shapiro called for full-blown legalization of marijuana for recreational use as part of his budget address, putting the addiction-for-profit marijuana industry above the health and well-being of Pennsylvania families.

“Gov. Josh Shapiro, in calling for the legalization of manufactured marijuana for retail recreational sale in PA, goes against our law enforcement agencies, every major health organization, mental health services, and, most importantly, the well-being of Pennsylvanians,” stated Dan Bartkowiak, Director of Communications for Pennsylvania Family Institute.

Interestingly, Gov Shapiro called for “legalized marijuana”, yet Pennsylvania already has a medical marijuana program where Pennsylvania citizens can legally use this drug for medical purposes. 

“Pennsylvania communities do not want a pot shop in their neighborhood,” added Bartkowiak. “Lawmakers should reject this policy proposal, which would increase teen marijuana use, increase traffic fatalities and create further burdens on mental health.” 

“Despite Gov. Shapiro’s projections of revenue in this year’s budget proposal, the fact remains that there’s no amount of tax revenue from marijuana that can justify sacrificing the safety and well-being of our young people.” stated Judge Cheryl Allen, Of Counsel for Pennsylvania Family Institute. “The purposes of government include establishing laws, maintaining order and providing security, protecting citizens from external threats, and promoting the general welfare through public services. Legalizing marijuana for non-medical use will not serve any of these purposes. This decision is anti-family, anti-science, and anti-safety.”

While calls for decriminalization are often conflated with recreational use, today’s policy proposal from Gov. Shapiro is all about allowing an addiction-for-profit industry to proliferate  manufactured, high-potency THC products to be marketed and sold in local communities.

As PA State Rep. Paul Schemel (R-Franklin) stated yesterday in a House Health Subcommittee information meeting: “You do not have to legalize recreational marijuana to have reform of how people are prosecuted under current laws.”

“The term ‘legalization’ is often used rather broadly,” states the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). “However, at the state level, marijuana can be divided into four distinct legal categories.” Those four categories: 1) Non-medical legalization, 2) Medical Legalization, 3) Decriminalized, and 4) Illegal.

This distinction is important. A push for “recreational use” (non-medical) in Pennsylvania is likely one that would force your community to set up one or more pot shops that both advertise and sell up to 99% THC in flavored vapes and other colorful products that are marketed to appeal to children. It’s the same playbook from Big Tobacco. 

“Gov. Shapiro’s call for more manufactured marijuana sales will harm Pennsylvania children and families,” stated Bartkowiak. “When the distinctions are made clear, retail sale of manufactured marijuana products is not what is best for Pennsylvania.” 

There is a growing list of groups in Pennsylvania that have expressed opposition to the legalization of marijuana for non-medical use, including:

  • PA Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics: “We can reasonably expect that, with its legalization, the prevalence of marijuana use among both adults and adolescents will increase in our state.” Dr. Sheryl Ryan
  • PA Fraternal Order of Police: “Marijuana is a dangerous drug that poses a real threat to public safety and public health.”
  • PA Chiefs of Police Association: “Marijuana legalization in Pennsylvania will pose significant challenges for law enforcement as a result of the unanticipated consequences it has on crime and public safety.” Scott Bohn, Executive Director
  • Commonwealth Prevention Alliance: “Legalizing and introducing recreational marijuana are counterintuitive to the health and safety of PA communities.” Jeff Hanley, Executive Director
  • Caron Treatment Centers: “If we continue towards the path of full legalization, we need to prepare ourselves to deal with the increase in problem usage. Far better would be to prevent the problems in the first place.” Dr. Adam Scioli, Medical Director and Head of Psychiatry
  • PA District Attorneys Association: “Our opposition stems from science, research and data, as well as information from our drug addiction specialists.” John Adams, Berks County District Attorney
  • PA Manufacturers Association: “Mass-commercialization of recreational marijuana would be a major setback.” David Taylor, President & CEO

Mainstream health organizations are also opposed to the retail sale of marijuana for non-medical use:

Gov. Shapiro’s proposal neglects any of the real costs associated with marijuana legalization for non-medical use. In Colorado, estimates show it costs $4.50 dollars for every dollar brought in by marijuana tax revenue. These costs are seen in areas like health care, traffic, crime, housing, education, workplace safety and homelessness.

“Gov. Shapiro, in his call for education reform, stated if we do this right, we will set our young people up for success. With a call to legalize marijuana for recreational use, you’re setting young people up for failure,” added Bartkowiak.


Pennsylvania Family Institute is a leading pro-life and pro-family state-based organization.