Recently, local state representatives in Pennsylvania introduced a proposal that legalizes adult recreational cannabis use in the state. In reaction to this proposed legislation, state Representative Ryan Warner stated that he didn’t believe that now was the appropriate time to legalize more drugs. He also said that lawmakers needed to study further the use of recreational marijuana in states that already have legalized the drug.
Recreational cannabis use has been made legal in nine states. Also, the District of Columbia allows for legitimate use of the drug recreationally. A total of 31 US states, as well as the District of Columbia, have legalized the use of medical marijuana.
Representative Warner, R-Perryopolis, doesn’t believe that the state should legalize marijuana. But he and his cohort, Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Jeffers, as well as Rep. Matt Dowling, R-Uniontown, stated that they would consider a referendum or a direct vote by residents of the state concerning this subject.
Their comments came after Rep. Jake Wheatly, who is a Democrat from Pittsburg, proposed a bill that legalized possessing cannabis products and up to six cannabis plants. But not more than three cannabis plants could be in flower in this proposed bill. The bill didn’t take into consideration the topics of publically using marijuana or driving under the influence of pot. The bill was then given to the House Health Committee. Besides, Rep. Wheatly proposed releasing people incarcerated for marijuana-associated crimes.
A recent (2017) poll by Franklin and Marshall College discovered that over half of the voters of Pennsylvania support legalizing marijuana. This number is significantly more significant than the previous year’s poll. Democrats and independents strongly support legalizing marijuana, while only 44 percent of Republicans agree with its legislation, according to the survey. These numbers are of concern to marijuana legalization proponents, as the bill faces a considerable challenge in the General Assembly, which contains a Republican majority. Rep. Snyder believes that the focus of marijuana legislation should be kept on implementing medical marijuana laws instead of legalizing the plant material in general.
Cannabis remains classified a Schedule I drug as determined by the US Drug Enforcement Agency. Marijuana has been considered by the government to have a high potential for abuse as well as no accepted medical uses. Plus, most banks are required to refuse to allow individuals or companies to deposit money from marijuana sales since the substance is still considered an illegal chemical. A recent report from by the Washington Post reported that most legal marijuana businesses such as in Oregon and Colorado run primarily on cash transactions.
Rep. Dowling stated that he doesn’t know if marijuana leads to the use of stronger or increasingly addicting drugs. He also doesn’t know if legalizing marijuana would reduce dependence on opioids like heroin. He does believe that both premises need to be investigated further.
Rep. Bud Cook, who is a Republican from West Pike Run Township, said during a recent debate that he remains somewhere in the middle of the debate over legalizing marijuana because he has quite a few questions that need to be answered before he takes a side on the issue. He doesn’t’ have a problem with legalizing medical marijuana, however.
Justin Walsh, a Republican representative from Rostraver Township, couldn’t be reached for comment.
Pennsylvania State Act 16 of 2016 regulates medical marijuana under certain circumstances. If a person has contracted a terminal illness or one of the qualifying 21 conditions such as cancer, epilepsy or autism, they may be able to use marijuana legally to treat their disorder legally. Snyder and Warner supported this legislation. Dowling says he supports using marijuana medically but doesn’t know for sure what local impact may have occurred since marijuana’s medical use was legalized.
According to Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, the state is losing out on $581 million per year in revenue by not legalizing, regulating and taxing recreational marijuana use if the amount of taxation was set at 35 percent. Rep. Wheatly also stated that taxing marijuana could balance the state’s budget and improve the state’s schools, too. Rep.Snyder didn’t think that the increased tax dollars were enough of a reason to legalize recreational marijuana, however.
Rep. Dowling argued that it is financially irresponsible to relay on “sin taxes” to base the financing of a state government. By their nature, “sin taxes” on gambling, tobacco and other such vices are not a reliable source of state income because the amount gained fluctuates.
Rep. Wheatly argued that legalizing marijuana would save the taxpayers a lot of money in law enforcement costs. Law officers would also be freed up to deal with more serious crimes if recreation marijuana use was made legal.