For those who occurred to go to the Pennsylvania state capital lately, you’ll have been shocked to search out a big hashish leaf flag flying excessive over the constructing’s most important entrance.

It’s a very jarring sight contemplating that police in Pennsylvania made 21,789 arrests in 2019 for hashish possession, and present no indicators of stopping—as a result of Republicans in command of the state legislature proceed to dam each try to enter the world of authorized weed.

That explains why Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman has taken to letting his freak flag fly, particularly from the balcony of his second flooring workplace within the capital constructing. He made his views clear on this portrait with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf:

From that very same balcony Fetterman additionally proudly shows an LGBTQ-rights flag, in protest of those self same Republican lawmakers’ ongoing opposition to a invoice banning employment discrimination primarily based on sexual or gender id.

The flags have met with some backlash, however the Lt. Governor stays undeterred.  

‘America’s coolest mayor’ goes statewide

Thrust into the nationwide highlight throughout Pennsylvania’s current Trump-driven election drama, John Fetterman has lengthy been identified to hashish advocates as an outspoken and unwavering champion of legalization—going all the way in which again to his time as a small-town mayor.

First elected by the residents of Braddock, PA, in 2005 by a single vote, he quickly made nationwide headlines and earned excessive reward as “America’s coolest mayor.”

Since taking workplace, Fetterman has relentlessly pressed for legalization in Pennsylvania. A marijuana flag presently flies exterior his Capitol workplace.

A sturdily-built, six-foot-eight, 51-year-old son of the Rust Belt, Fetterman sports activities extra hair on his chin than his head, and favors steel-grey work shirts over the politician’s customary swimsuit and tie. By specializing in creating youth packages, attracting artists and creatives, renovating previous buildings in eco-friendly methods, and investing in group packages and outreach, Fetterman turned Braddock right into a vigorous city on the rise.

After profitable re-election a number of occasions by extensive margins, he ran for statewide workplace in 2018 and pulled an upset by defeating the Democratic incumbent within the main, then using Gov. Tom Wolfe’s re-election into workplace. (In Pennsylvania, candidates for lieutenant governor run individually within the main, then the winner is hooked up to the get together’s gubernatorial candidate within the common election.)

Since taking workplace, Fetterman has relentlessly pressed for legalization in his dwelling state, talking with voters immediately, making his case by way of dozens of social media posts, and—yesterday—penning his personal Washington Post op-ed calling for an finish to prohibition.

Q&A with Fetterman

Leafly spoke with Fetterman by way of Zoom simply hours after Pennsylvania licensed its 2020 common election outcomes.

Leafly: How did legalization turn into so personally vital to you?

That’s straightforward. I used to be a small-town mayor of a group of shade. I initially began out working with the younger individuals there [as a community organizer], and loads of them had silly marijuana costs. Simply nickel-and-dime stuff that might cease them from going ahead of their lives.

In the meantime, prohibition is simply ineffective. A complete waste. It’s absurd that this ever was a difficulty, fairly frankly. For those who’re anti-weed-legalization, then logically you also needs to be towards the legalization of cigarettes and alcohol. As a result of these two substances kill a whole lot of hundreds of People yearly, and you’ll stroll into any comfort retailer and purchase them en masse.

You can too gamble away your life financial savings at a state-sponsored on line casino.

However in Pennsylvania, get caught with a bit weed and also you’re a fucking prison for the remainder of your life.

Leafly: In 2020, on the high of the ticket, the Democrats had Joe Biden, whose place on legalization…

Was cowardly. It was cowardly. You gotta name it what it’s.

Right here’s a tough undeniable fact. On the subject of weed, the Democratic Social gathering’s platform was to the correct of South Dakota’s voters [who approved legalization]. Which is absurd. As a result of in case you are to the correct of South Dakota on something, it’s good to sit down and reevaluate your life.

It was cowardly earlier than the election, and now it’s straight-up embarrassing. And I hope you quote me on that.

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Leafly: So that you consider Democrats left votes on desk by not embracing legalization?

I’ll do you one higher. Democrats risked dropping the election.

Through the marketing campaign, I predicted that if both candidate introduced their help for authorized weed, that candidate would win the presidency. .

We ended up profitable by a pair hundred thousand votes, perhaps, unfold over six states. If Trump had backed legalization, that might have created a tsunami of help and pleasure and new voters. It could have been sport over for Democrats.

And in the meantime, you understand who ended up profitable greatest on Election Day? Authorized weed!

Authorized weed killed it on the poll in 2020.

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Leafly: You lately went on a listening tour of each county in Pennsylvania and talked to lots of people about hashish. What did you be taught?

Veterans jumped out greater than anyone. We had so many veterans come out, usually in tears, simply saying, “These fuckers name me a prison as a result of I exploit a plant that makes me really feel regular. The VA will give me as many drugs as I would like, however I’m a prison if I exploit weed.”

It’s a shame.

Leafly: New Jersey voters simply approved legalization by a big margin, and the state is shifting in the direction of opening hashish shops. Does sharing a border with a authorized state assist enhance your efforts?

Legalization is inevitable right here in Pennsylvania. It has to occur.

Forty % of our residents are going to be a grocery retailer size drive away from a Candyland of authorized weed [in New Jersey]. After which Virginia’s gonna legalize. And New York in all probability.

How far behind can we need to fall earlier than we cease the injustice of hashish arrests and the financial lack of individuals driving to purchase weed in a neighboring state the place it’s authorized?

Leafly: What’s the most recent standing in your weed flag? And the way did that entire factor begin?

I’ve a balcony that’s sort of prime actual property optically within the Pennsylvania State Capitol. I began flying a Satisfaction flag as a result of in my state Republicans within the legislature are blocking protections for that group. I additionally fly a weed flag as a result of the Republicans are blocking legalization.

It’s vital for me to run on what’s proper, and when you suppose we should always criminalize a plant and punish individuals for the remainder of their lives who get caught utilizing it, I legitimately sit up for you voting for the opposite particular person.

Does the legislature’s current “flag amendment” pertain particularly to you?

Sure, it was clearly focused to me. [A Republican-sponsored amendment in a current state budget-related bill would ban the flying of any flag other than the U.S., Pennsylvania, or POW/MIA flag on the Capitol building’s exterior.]

And it’s similar to LOL. What are they gonna do? Name up the Homosexual Flag Police to return get them? And in the meantime all they’re doing is simply elevating the problem much more.

They’ve this concept that you would be able to silence and cease the dialog.

If the modification passes will you proceed to fly these flags?

Oh yeah. I simply purchased new ones. 100% they’re going up.

It’s free speech. You’re not gonna inform me what I can say or do out of my workplace.

I’ve all the time been for legalization as a result of I’ve all the time identified that it was the correct factor. Even when it was unpopular. Even when it was thought of too far out by lots of people. Though I’m not a shopper of it myself.

Leafly: In 2020, Oregon and Washington DC voters authorized initiatives shifting in the direction of decriminalizing psilocybin mushrooms? Do you help that?

Sure, and that should occur right here. No one produces extra mushrooms than Pennsylvania. We’re the [culinary] mushroom capital of the world.

Our state might embrace hemp, weed and mushrooms in a manner that might make us a pacesetter, as a substitute staying afraid and caught in Reefer Insanity.

Oregon voters additionally authorized an initiative decriminalizing all medication. Do you again that as nicely?

Sure.

And I might merely ask anybody: “How has criminalizing habit labored out for us?”

Are you prepared to provide that up? I’m.

David Bienenstock's Bio Image

David Bienenstock

Veteran hashish journalist David Bienenstock is the writer of “The right way to Smoke Pot (Correctly): A Intellectual Information to Getting Excessive” (2016 – Penguin/Random Home), and the co-host and co-creator of the podcast “Nice Moments in Weed Historical past with Abdullah and Bean.” Observe him on Twitter @pot_handbook.

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