John Fetterman, Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania, launched his U.S. Senate campaign earlier this year and placed ending the war on drugs at the forefront of his political agenda. With more than a dozen states across the country having legalized adult-use and/or medicinal cannabis in recent years and months, Fetterman is pushing for legalization not just in his home state, but at the federal level, too. Cannabis Business Times caught up with Fetterman as he ramps up his 2022 Senate campaign and his push for cannabis adult-use legalization. Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for length, clarity and style.
1. Zach Mentz:

As someone who is running for U.S. Senate in 2022, what are your priorities as a lawmaker and how does cannabis legalization fit into that?

John Fetterman:

[Cannabis legalization] is a no-brainer. I would challenge anybody to come up with a public policy decision that would generate more revenue, jobs, freedom and justice than just simply saying yes to a plant. It’s not about re-making health care. It’s not about some complicated infrastructure. It’s just saying, “Okay, we’re not going to arrest anybody anymore for weed. We’re going to make it a legitimate business and reap billions and billions and billions in free money that’s already being given to the cartels in places where it’s illegal, and we’re going to expunge the criminal records of anyone that’s ever had their lives damaged by this ridiculous prohibition.” All it means is saying yes to a plant. It’s pretty simple.

2. ZM: Are there any state models that you’d like Pennsylvania to follow? Any states you think are doing a great job?

JF:

I think Illinois has consistently done a really great job, but I’ve also said that I support the [federal] legalization bill. I don’t want the good to be sacrificed at the alter of the perfect, in that regard. [Illinois] acknowledged that it’s got to be legal. They acknowledge that some of the benefits will be directed to the communities that were disproportionally impacted, and it makes a lot of sense.

3. ZM: What’s the next step from here then? Is it the passage of the SAFE Act or the MORE Act in Congress?

JF:

We just need to make sure we’re electing people that are for legalization or also anti-prohibition. This idea that we [Democrats] don’t even have our own caucus shored up, but I suspect we would have Republicans on the other side too … You look at every state where they’ve been able to legalize it, and there hasn’t been even the most remote type of outcomes that the handwringing “Reefer Madness” types have predicted would come. Canada legalized it and somehow they haven’t slid into anarchy and mass dysfunction. What’s the justification at this point? It’s just “Reefer Madness” or prohibition. They’ll [say], “Well, this isn’t your grandparents marijuana.” I’m like, “Well, you can go buy as much grain alcohol as you want and no one’s wringing their hands over that.”

4. ZM:

What’s your level of optimism that a federal legalization bill gets passed in the Biden administration, maybe before the 2022 midterms?

JF:

I don’t know about [before] the midterms just simply because it could be seen as a political win for the Democrats. I keep trying to yank it out of the realm of the partisan and just put it firmly down where it really truly is: a bipartisan issue. What are we arguing about here? Seriously. A majority of Republicans want it. An overwhelming majority of Democrats want it. I think the number of people that are hard against it is maybe 15% of the population. The [rest] are just like, “Whatever. I don’t really feel that strongly one way or the other, but if it happens, make it legal and safe.”

5. ZM:

How would you sum up the War on Drugs?

JF:

An absolute failure of the highest order that has wasted trillions of dollars and harmed billions of lives and not made us any safer or sound, and it just needs to end.

Zach Mentz is senior editor of Cannabis Business Times.

READ MORE ONLINE: Read the full interview with Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman online by following this link: bit.ly/cbt-john-fetterman-full