Pennsylvania hasn't legalized marijuana; viral post misreads proposed budget | Fact check

The claim: Pennsylvania legalized marijuana in February 2024, effective July 1

A Feb. 19 Facebook post (direct link, archive link) claims the state of Pennsylvania approved the recreational use of marijuana in a move taking effect later in 2024.

“Weed is officially legal in PA, on July 1st,” reads the text of the post.

It was shared more than 1,000 times in three days.

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Our rating: False

As of Feb. 22, lawmakers have not passed any measures to decriminalize the recreational use of marijuana on any future date. The post misinterprets a section of Gov. Josh Shapiro’s proposed budget in which he asked lawmakers to pass a measure to make it legal on July 1.

Claim misreads governor’s proposed budget

It’s legal for adults to use marijuana recreationally in nearly half of U.S. states, including five of the six that border Pennsylvania. The state is missing out on a quarter of a billion dollars in tax revenue every year, Shapiro said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

But the claim that Pennsylvania has taken action to legalize the drug on July 1 is false. As of Feb. 22, lawmakers have not passed any bills that would make it legal on any future date, according to the General Assembly’s bill tracker.

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The claim misinterprets a section of the budget plan released by Shapiro on Feb. 6. It proposes that marijuana legalization take effect July 1, with licensed shops permitted to open Jan. 1, 2025.

“The governor included projected revenues from recreational cannabis legislation in his 2024 budget proposal, but that won’t constitute legislation,” Dan Mallinson, an associate professor of public policy at Penn State University and an expert on cannabis policy, told USA TODAY in an email.

In his prepared remarks, Shapiro called on lawmakers “to come together and send to my desk a bill that legalizes marijuana.” As of the date of this post, that had not happened.

Many states that allow recreational marijuana began the process through initiatives and referenda. Pennsylvania residents do not have that option, which means such a measure must progress through the same legislative process that any other bill does, Mallinson said.

Shapiro’s $48.3 billion budget proposal includes a 20% tax on legal marijuana, which would generate a projected $14.8 million in tax revenue during the first year. USA TODAY reached out to a spokesperson for Shapiro but did not immediately receive a response.

The projected budget specifically points out Ohio’s move to legalize the drug, stating that Pennsylvania “is currently at a competitive disadvantage,” as is West Virginia, the only adjacent state that still bans its recreational use among adults.

“The pressure to adopt has certainly increased now that all but one of the Commonwealth’s neighbors has adopted the policy,” Mallinson said.

USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook user who shared the post but did not immediately receive a response.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Pennsylvania did not legalize marijuana, contrary to post | Fact check