Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman said it was a listening tour—and that is what it was on April 13 at the Reynoldsville Senior Citizen’s Center known as the Foundry. For an hour and half, people from across Jefferson County expressed their views on legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.
At the very beginning, Fetterman thanked everyone for attending and discussing the issue. He also went over a few guidelines for the presentation.
“This is our thirty-seventh county stop,” he said. “I’ve never once had to demand civility from the audience.”
He also stated that the goal was to create a space where everyone felt secure in sharing their views, whether they are for, against or undecided.
Jefferson County Commissioner Herb Bullers attended the meeting. He told the audience, “[I’m here to] listen to comments and take them back to my fellow commissioners.”
State Representative Cris Dush (R-66) addressed the audience as well. He stressed the meeting was not about penalization or medical marijuana, but the recreational use of it. He also provided information as to why he opposed the measure, and that he was “very concerned about public safety.”
The Lieutenant Governor informed the audience that he was not there to answer questions but just listen. To that end, Fetterman sat down at the head table with Commissioner Bullers and listened.
Dressed casually in jeans and short-sleeved shirt, the 6’ 7” tall Fetterman sat calmly with his hands in his lap and his legs crossed. His facial expression remained the same throughout most of the meeting, rarely smiling or giving any reaction to what was being said. His tone was always respectful, even when he encouraged the speakers to shorten their comments so others could speak.
The only question he would occasionally ask was how the speaker felt about the legalization, and he only asked that if he wasn’t quite clear which way the speaker leaned.
Residents from across Jefferson County (and some from other counties) packed the Foundry to voice their opinions.
18-year-old Caitlin Worthing of Sigel voiced her opposition to legalization and provided some research support she had obtained for the meeting. One 16-year-old speaker voiced his support for the legalization citing his own reasons.
The debate went back and forth, with some voicing support, some voicing opposition. There were a few people who were undecided and one person who stated, “I really don’t care.” That person was more concerned with the state of the culture and communities that prompted drug abuse in the first place.
In an emotional moment, one woman showed pictures of family members whose lives were destroyed by drug abuse. Another woman talked about how medical marijuana “saved my life—literally” and that she believed all marijuana use was medicinal.
Many speakers came prepared with research but had to summarize what they had to avoid taking too much time. There were many people present who felt marijuana was a gateway drug and posed a threat to young people or children of users.
Once person claiming to be a former drug abuser said he was in favor of it so that his money would not go to the dealer and then somewhere else.
“I’d rather my dollars go to Pennsylvania,” he said.
Some argued against it for religious reasons. Another person said she was surprised by the discussion itself.
“It’s amazing to me we’re even considering this,” she said.
After and hour and half of the back and forth, Lt. Governor Fetterman thanked everyone for “a very thoughtful and spirited debate.” He then asked for a show of hands for those for, against, and undecided. It appeared that the majority of those in attendance from Jefferson County were against legalizing the recreational use of marijuana.
Fetterman also encouraged those present to fill out comment cards and leave them with his staff. He also said people could make their opinion known in an online survey on the governor’s web site.
In a brief press conference afterwards, the Lt. Governor said going from county to county listening was something he enjoyed.
“This is what I signed up for,” he said.
Fetterman has 30 more counties to visit before the tour is over. The final meeting will be held May 19. At that point, all the data gathered will be codified and placed into a report for Governor Tom Wolf.
A bill legalizing the recreational use of marijuana has been introduced in the General Assembly, but Fetterman was quick to point out that it did not come from Wolf Administration and that legislators can do what they want. He said he and the governor were just listening to what Pennsylvanians had to say about the issue.
For an hour and half, that’s what he did in Reynoldsville April 13.