Pennsylvania is not new to the discussion of cannabis legalization, but the initial discussion, like other states that have moved to full legalization, started with the passage of medical sales. On February 15, 2018 the Keystone state began selling cannabis to patients and their caregivers after Act 16 went into law. Governor Tom Wolf had signed the act less than two years prior to sales beginning. However, Pennsylvania State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale is looking to influence various supporters by providing facts, pros and cons, on the concept of accepting full legalization of the flower. The main factor in his proposal is the final $581 million dollars that could be generated in tax revenue, per year, for the state.
DePasquale had released a report explaining the benefits of replacing marijuana prohibition laws with taxation and regulation for adults 21 and older. The report is giving the information needed to let supporters contact state lawmakers to push for legalization and stop wasting time and lives with the current prohibition position. Regulating cannabis would be better for the community as well as consumers. Regulation of cannabis will allow consumers to be provided with safe tested product. The state would also be able to control where, when and to whom the product could be sold.
In July of 2018 there were a reported 27 dispensaries that are operational and providing product and the state is expecting up to 81 more locations to start care across the state. Currently, over 30,000 patients have registered to be a part of the medical program and almost a thousand physicians have been registered as certified practitioners to provide care. However, the state is facing challenges with its budget, like many other states, and taxing cannabis is becoming to look very lucrative to Pennsylvania’s fiscal bottom line. The budget could be refocused on funding for pre-K initiatives, veteran’s mental health access as well as uninsured or underinsured at-risk children.
There are other benefits that would come from legalization that would directly affect families, especially minority families, and that comes in the realm of criminal law. Pennsylvania’s two largest cities, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, have decriminalized possession of up to an ounce of cannabis. According to statistics in 2016, after the first full year of decriminalization, possession arrests went down almost 50 percent. The other half of those arrests were for possession of over an ounce of cannabis, which would now be looked at as trafficking. Back in 2013, arrests from marijuana possession was the highest the state had experienced with over 2,000 people being arrested on that charge.
Pennsylvania is understanding the many benefits that legalization would provide, but when it comes right down to the main factors, financial windfalls for that state would be the largest motivator. As financial motivation in the form of generated tax revenue becomes more accepted across the US, then we will expect to see more and more states coming to their senses when it comes to the debate of the effectiveness of the current marijuana prohibition stance.
By T. Jerome Chisley (@PoeticPanther)
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