The Pennsylvania Cannabis Festival group wasn’t notified that their application to adopt a stretch of highway was denied until after they’d already cleaned it up.
Most states are eager for companies and organizations to adopt highways. In Colorado, it is common to see the names of local cannabis dispensaries and businesses all over the highways because of these programs. In Pennsylvania, however, a pro-cannabis affiliation means you’re not allowed, as a pro cannabis group was denied from adopting a Pennsylvania highway this month. PennDOT denied the Pennsylvania Cannabis Festival from adopting a stretch of road just off of Interstate 81 in Susquehanna County.
According to festival organizers, several different reasons were initially provided for the basis of rejection. State officials first told the organizers that they were denied because they were not a business. However, when the festival provided information about its LLC status, they were told that it supported “non-medicinal cannabis use.”
Ultimately, a lawmaker passed along the information that the group was denied due to cannabis being illegal. Festival organizer Jeff Zick said,
“They got back to us and said we’re non-medical cannabis, so we’re not allowed because we’re non-medical cannabis.”
According to a spokesperson for PennDOT, the decision was made because the group supports an illegal activity. James May, a current PennDOT spokesman stated that these decisions were made by the local district executive after initial reviews are conducted by county coordinators.
He stated that, “although there are exceptions for religious or medical purposes, cannabis is still an illegal substance.” May went on to say that, “our district executive felt it would not be appropriate to allow the promotion of an illegal substance on a commonwealth-owned sign.”
However, the ruling came after volunteers had already picked up trash, and wanted to continue to do so. Currently, Route 106, located near Lenox in Susquehanna County reportedly looks pristine compared to before largely due to the work of these volunteers.
A few had pitched in to clean up the stretch a few weeks ago, and were hoping to continue this effort but were denied after organizers applied to PennDOT to adopt that stretch of the highway. Despite being allowed to hold the event last month in Scranton’s Nay Aug Park last month, PennDOT still denied the highway adoption request.
Shortly thereafter, the festival organizers expressed their disappointment over the ruling. Festival organizer Jeff Zick, expressed his sincere disappointment over the decision, stating, “I think they’re just making up the rules as they go,” He also stated that the decision came after volunteers had been successful in their cleanup efforts.
“They gave us all our supplies, gave us a stretch of highway. We didn’t find out we were denied until we did our cleanup.”
However, Zick and his wife Amanda remain undeterred in their efforts to beautify that highway stretch. They also believe that it is unfair that they are barred from adopting highway stretches while PennDOT continues to allow bars, wineries, and other groups to adopt highways.
They also have the support of other groups that have adopted nearby highways,
such as the Elk Mountain WFW Post. According to Amanda Zick,
“We’re not saying, ‘Come out here and smoke. We’ll smoke while we clean up.’ No, we’re picking up garbage.”
According to them, anyone who is willing to contribute significant effort in keeping Pennsylvania beautiful should be welcome to do so. “The amount of trash that’s being tossed out here is phenomenal. Anyone who can come out and clean it up is a plus to this community,” said Will Zerfoss, Elk Mountain VFW Post 8488.
Zick stated that the idea behind trash pickup and adopting the highway was a means to show that erase some of the stigma surrounding marijuana and encourage acceptance. “We’re trying to break the public’s stigma and the bad propaganda with truth and reality,” he said.
Although cannabis is currently legal in Pennsylvania for medicinal purposes, it remains illegal for recreational usage unlike in several other states. The cannabis festival is prepared to take their fight for highway adoption to Harrisburg and the governor’s office.