Pot Advocate to Guide Policy in Wolf Administration

John Hanger briefly ran for governor on a pro-weed platform.

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One of Pennsylvania’s highest-profile voices for marijuana legalization will guide policy in the administration of Governor-Elect Tom Wolf.

Wolf’s transition team on Wednesday afternoon announced that John Hanger will be the Secretary of Planning and Policy in the new administration. Hanger served under Governor Ed Rendell as leader of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, but he’s possibly better-known for his short-lived run for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination this year — a campaign in which he put up billboards in Erie and Scranton urging voters to legalize and tax marijuana. He dropped out before the primary election, however.

“We are spending $300 million, approximately, chasing down and arresting people who are possessing small amounts of marijuana,” Hanger told Philly Mag last spring. “If we get it out of the underground economy and start taxing it, instead of spending that $300 million we will raise $200 million dollars of new revenue. That’s a big deal for taxpayers.”

And it may be a big deal that Hanger is now in such a prominent position. Aside from it being ground-breaking — could an official with such a plainly pro-pot agenda have ascended to the governor’s cabinet a decade ago? — the appointment could signal an opportunity for progress, at least, on passage of a medical marijuana bill, which has passed the State Senate but made little headway otherwise.

The transition team announced two other appointments on Wednesday: Mary Isenhour as Secretary of Legislative Affairs, and Obra S. Kernodle IV as Deputy Chief of Staff and Director, Office of Public Liaison.