Pa. Dem Senate nominee Fetterman: Decriminalize all drugs, criminalize corporate price hikes

"I'm pro legalizing marijuana, but I go even further than some of my colleagues because I'm for decriminalizing across the board," Lt. Gov. John Fetterman said.

Updated: August 22, 2022 - 11:31pm

Pennsylvania Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who is running against GOP candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz in the U.S. Senate race, has supported soft-on-crime policies, COVID-19 lockdowns, pro-CRT teachers' unions, decriminalizing all drugs, and criminalizing price hikes by private companies.

In 2015, while he was mayor of Braddock, Pa., Fetterman told The Nation that he supported the decriminalization of all drugs.

"I'm pro legalizing marijuana, but I go even further than some of my colleagues because I'm for decriminalizing across the board," Fetterman said. "I see it as a public health issue, not a criminal issue. I've seen firsthand for the last 14 years the effects it has on families."

In a 2018 podcast interview, Fetterman said of the drug crisis: "I think it's important that we as a society get in front of it. I think it's important that we as a society have all the options on the table — including needle exchange, which is only technically legal in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh — and even safe injection sites that are being considered."

In a recent op-ed for Wilkes-Barre's Times Leader, meanwhile, Fetterman vowed to crack down on corporations "charging us record high prices for gas and groceries" by "prosecuting the executives of these huge corporations, including the big oil companies and meatpacking companies who are artificially driving up prices, gouging consumers at the pump and at the grocery store."

Fetterman called $1 million bail that was set for protesters charged with felony arson, riot and vandalism during 2020 summer protests "blatantly unconstitutional."

He endorsed George Soros-backed Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner for reelection in 2021. On Krasner's watch the county jail population decreased by 40%, falling to its lowest level since 1985, according to the DA's campaign website.

Fetterman's endorsement of Krasner was the subject of a letter sent by 13 Pennsylvania sheriffs to the lieutenant governor that was organized by Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz's campaign.

Fetterman, who chairs the state's Board of Pardons, was the only member of the board who voted to commute Wayne Covington's sentence of life in prison. Covington pleaded guilty in 1970 to first-degree murder to avoid the death penalty after admitting to shooting 18-year-old George Rudnycky to death for drug money while high.

In the four years since he has chaired the board, it has recommended 46 commutations of life sentences, compared to just six in Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's first term.

Fetterman's campaign website notes that he has used the lieutenant governorship as "a bully pulpit for criminal justice reform." 

While Fetterman was paid a yearly salary of $1,800 as mayor of Braddock, his parents gave him tens of thousands of dollars to live on, including $54,000 in 2015 alone, when he was in his 40s. He also purchased a loft from his sister for $1 after she had paid $70,000 for it six years earlier.

As lieutenant governor in March 2020 during the COVID-19 lockdowns, Fetterman said that he and his family would "stay at home, minimizing social interactions and trips to indoor public places." He criticized anti-lockdown protesters in May 2020 and said that COVID outbreaks were being caused by "renegade counties" in Pennsylvania that were violating his administration's stay-at-home orders.

Despite his promise to stay home, Fetterman and his family took a vacation to Ocean City, N.J., from June 24-27, 2020. In providing security for the trip, the Pennsylvania state police spent $3,500 for overtime, food, and lodging.

Fetterman has said that critical race theory is "just not an issue" in Pennsylvania, labeling Republican opposition to promoting the ideology in public schools "divisive dog whistling."

The teachers' unions that have endorsed Fetterman, including the National Education Association and state affiliate the Pennsylvania State Education Association, are pushing CRT in schools. Last year, for example, NEA president Becky Pringle said that teachers "are not going to be afraid to teach" critical race theory. And several PSEA university chapters hosted a discussion called "Critical Race Theory, Multiculturalism, Social Justice, Culturally Responsive Pedagogy, and Social Justice for Equity in Schools Today" that "explored how educators can begin to implement and actualize a platform of multicultural curricula, culturally responsive pedagogy, and social justice practices within the classroom."

In response to state Republicans pushing pro-life laws, Fetterman tweeted last year: "A person's right to an abortion is non-negotiable. People should have control over their own bodies and their own lives."

Following the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade this year, Fetterman tweeted: "Abortions will still happen whether it's illegal or not. The difference is that more women will die because they won't be safe, and it will fall hardest on poor women + women of color. We must fight this with everything we've got." NARAL Pro-Choice America has endorsed Fetterman.

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