WILKES-BARRE — While Josh Shapiro visited the Times Leader on Thursday to discuss his proposals to save Pennsylvanians money, the attorney general and Democratic gubernatorial hopeful also responded to our questions about a few other hot topics.
• First is a question we plan to ask each gubernatorial candidate who stops by this election season: Who won the 2020 presidential election?
“There’s no question Joe Biden did,” Shapiro said.
“There is no question that we had a free and fair, safe and secure election,” he added, noting that law enforcement only found a handful of election fraud cases in Pennsylvania, “and by the way, they were trying to cast an extra vote for Donald Trump, not Joe Biden.”
Regardless of who those votes were for, “it’s four or five or six votes, right? It’s not this widespread voter fraud,” Shapiro said, saying continued support for “the big lie” represents a threat to American democracy.
• Earlier this week, Shapiro tweeted in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana and expunging the records of those with non-violent marijuana-related offenses. We asked him about that stance.
Shapiro acknowledged that he previously opposed legalizing non-medical, recreational marijuana, but “as a chief law enforcement officer, quite frankly I don’t believe that we are made any more safe by arresting people” in non-violent marijuana cases.
“I think it actually diverts law enforcement resources away from the real challenge, like fentanyl, for example,” he added.
Shapiro noted that communities of color have been especially hard hit by non-violent marijuana arrests, and under any legalized system he would want to see criminal records in such cases expunged.
He also sees the regulation and sale of non-medical marijuana as an opportunity to raise money for the state — as other states have done — and put in place safeguards for users.
“If it’s not making us safer and if we can have safeguards to protect our kids, well then why are we losing out to all of these other states?” he said of the state’s current laws and practices.
“I think as both a law enforcement leader and as a father — and as a would-be governor — it makes sense for us to take that approach,” Shapiro said of legalizing recreational use.
• Amid calls by some on the left to “defund the police,” Shapiro stressed that is absolutely not his approach when asked Thursday, noting that there are over 1,200 vacant police officer positions across Pennsylvania, and his belief in the need to invest more in policing.
“If you want to create better relationships between the police and the community, you have to invest more in policing,” Shapiro said. “If you have more police in the community, that’s more opportunities for an officer to get out of his or her patrol car and walk the beat. It’s more opportunities for a mental health professional to be with the officer to show up at the scene. It’s more opportunities for the police officer to go to town meetings.”