Few issues animate Fetterman quite like fully legalizing marijuana in Pennsylvania, as other states have done. In 2019, he went on a listening tour of all 67 PA counties, to discuss it.
“Critics try to make it sound like it’s ‘Cheech & Chong’ or Jeff Spicoli, when it’s actually one of the most powerful yet simple levers that we could activate, whether it’s in Pennsylvania or nationally, that would transform our society, quite frankly,” says Fetterman. “I mean, in Pennsylvania, it would be seismic.”
He likes to point out that he was the only candidate for national office in 2016 to support full legalization.
The impact of criminalization on people of color is a disgrace, he says. And if marijuana was fully legalized, the state would have billions in revenue instead of billions in deficits, especially during the pandemic.
“It would create tens of thousands of unsubsidized jobs,” says Fetterman. “It would be a boon for our farmers in terms of a cash crop. It would be (great) from a personal freedom standpoint. It would be a gateway drug away from opioids and other harder substances, you know. And our veterans need this desperately — I can’t tell you how many veterans came to the 67 county stops and, you know, many of them in tears, discussing that.”
Medical marijuana is used by some veterans to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, though studies on its efficacy are ongoing and incomplete.
As Chairman of Pennsylvania’s Board of Pardons, the lieutenant governor takes his role seriously in helping people with criminal records rejoin society.
“Our country has mastered the punishment side of criminal justice,” says Fetterman. “We must nurture and expand the redemption and the forgiveness part of that equation. If you’re living your best life, and you’ve moved on from a really bad choice you may have made when you were young, or 10-20 years ago, you should be afforded the opportunity to fully rejoin the franchise. And I want to change that conversation.”
He talks of people who come before the Board saying, ‘God, I can’t believe I did something so dumb.’ Now they’re married with kids and they just want to volunteer at the PTA, and they can’t. “Why, as a society,” he asks, “would we not want to help make everybody better off?”