Bipartisan Bill Calls for the Legalization of Recreational Marijuana in Pennsylvania

By Alexa Glista, Feature Editor 

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The legalization of marijuana for adult recreational use has been an issue pushed by Pennsylvania Democrats for many years without much success.[1] However, having a Republican on board could help the bill become law, especially because Republicans control the state House and Senate.[2]

Democrat Sen. Sharif Street and Republican Sen. Dan Laughlin have teamed up to introduce bipartisan legislation that would legalize the adult use of marijuana in Pennsylvania.[3] In addition to the legalization of adult recreational use, the senators propose allowing licensed farmers across the state to grow marijuana, regulating the drug, and potentially collecting hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue from the legal sale of marijuana.[4]  The Pennsylvania Independent Fiscal Office says legalization would generate between $400 million to $1 billion in new tax revenue for the state annually.[5]

The bill, SB 473, sets the minimum marijuana age for consumption at 21 and mandates age verification for every purchase.[6]

Eighteen U.S. states have already legalized recreational marijuana, including New Jersey and New York, which boarder Pennsylvania.[7] Sen. Laughlin said, “The sky didn’t fall in any of those states, and I think the overall shift in American society is what we have on our side right now.” [8]

The current ban on marijuana in Pennsylvania has cause more than 20,000 adults to be arrested for marijuana-related violations in 2020.[9]  Sen. Street described the cannabis prohibition as “an expensive failure of public policy which has criminalized patients, personal freedoms and impacted generations in a failed war on drugs that continues to burden taxpayers with growing costs to our criminal justice system. This bill makes both moral and fiscal sense and prioritizes the people of Pennsylvania.”[10] SB 473, along with recreational marijuana legalization for adults, also includes justice reform components.[11] If the bill passes, it will expunge nonviolent marijuana convictions, by removing those convictions from people’s records.[12] It also will decriminalize marijuana purchase and possession up to 30 grams of cannabis, five grams of marijuana concentrate products and 500 milligrams of THC contained in cannabis-infused products.[13] [14]

The bill has a received mixed support, mainly with the concerns of intoxicated driving holding some people back. State Rep. Nancy Guenst commented, “I support this legislation as long as we use the same laws attached to alcohol use.”[15] However, Larry Weigand, who is running for sheriff in Delaware County, says “I have not viewed any bill or proposal for legalization that has addressed the multiple underlying issues that accompany recreational use drugs. I understand the social views of marijuana use have changed over the years, but the social views of intoxication and driving under the influence have not; to the contrary, they have become more stringent. Any consideration of legalization has to address these issues as well. The Senate needs to be considerate of both sides of the issues, as opposed to just passing a bill without providing due consideration for all who will be affected, including the non-users of marijuana and law enforcement.”[16]

SB 473 is a very controversial and progressive bill proposal; however with bipartisan support it stands a real chance of being passed in Pennsylvania legislature


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