Should Pennsylvania fully legalize marijuana? A state lawmaker launched an online petition Tuesday asking his colleagues to do just that.
In an effort to drum up public support for a legalization bill he plans to introduce, Pennsylvania Rep. Jake Wheatley (D) called on residents to co-sign his petition in support of cannabis reform in the Keystone State.
“In the near future, I will introduce H.B. 2600 to legalize the sale of marijuana for adult recreational use in Pennsylvania, and I’m asking for your support,” Wheatley wrote. “Legalizing marijuana—which is already permitted for medical use here in the commonwealth—would yield tremendous benefits for our state.”
— Jake Wheatley (@RepWheatley) August 21, 2018
The politician went on to list nine reasons to back legalization, including increased tax revenue, depriving drug trafficking organizations of profits and stimulating growth in the agricultural industry.
“My bill would also expunge criminal records for marijuana-related convictions that would have been considered lawful under the act. It’s time to end the 21st-century version of prohibition, stop squandering billions of dollars in revenue and balance our budget!”
Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program, which counts about 30,000 registered patients (with another 22,000 awaiting approval as of July 31), has been in effect for two years. But Gov. Tom Wolf (D), a vocal supporter of the system, recently cautioned against moving too fast to implement a recreational program.
“My sense is, right now, Pennsylvania’s not ready for it,” Wolf said earlier this month. “We’re working really hard to make sure that the medical marijuana program is done the right way.”
But public opinion, as revealed by polling, seems to disagree with the governor. A 2017 survey from Franklin & Marshall College found 59 percent of Pennsylvanians support legalizing adult-use cannabis, while just 31 percent oppose it.
That sentiment is bolstered by a report from the state’s auditor general, Eugene DePasquale, which found that Pennsylvania could see more than a half-billion dollars in additional tax revenue if the state approves recreational marijuana.
In any case, Wheatley is pushing ahead with his plan to introduce marijuana legalization in the legislature.
“There are tremendous benefits to legalizing marijuana and few downsides,” Wheatley told Fox 43. “It’s estimated that legalization would generate more than $580 million in annual tax revenue for Pennsylvania. That’s money to balance our budget, strengthen our economy, bolster our workforce and improve our schools.”
“What’s more, legalization would save taxpayers millions in enforcement costs while freeing up crime-fighting resources to combat serious, violent crime,” he said. “Prohibiting recreational use of marijuana does nothing to meaningfully reduce access to this relatively safe drug.”
UPDATE 8/21/18 2:54 p.m.: This story has been updated to clarify the number of currently registered medical marijuana patients in Pennsylvania).