Pa. lawmakers introduce bipartisan bill to legalize recreational marijuana

Pennsylvania Politics

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — There’s a new bipartisan push to legalize marijuana in Pennsylvania, but some groups are still strongly against it.

The governor and lieutenant governor have been pushing for this for some time, but it hasn’t gone anywhere in the Republican-controlled legislature.

A new bill has an unlikely pair of lawmakers teaming up.

Republican state Sen. Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) has made a 180 in his thinking toward legal marijuana, which he says he’s not a fan of and doesn’t use.

“Nearly 2/3 of Pennsylvanians support adult-use marijuana legalization,” Laughlin said.

He says legalization would help struggling farmers with a new crop to grow.

“Our proposal prioritizes safety and social equity and furthermore it will let Pennsylvania’s robust agricultural industry participate in marijuana cultivation,” Laughlin said.

He adds this is the perfect way to ensure taxes aren’t raised on Pennsylvanians.

“Adult-use marijuana legalization can raise somewhere between $400 million and $1 billion of new tax revenue for Pennsylvania,” Laughlin said.

15 states and Washington, D.C. have fully legalized marijuana.

New Jersey legalized it on Monday and New York is expected to be close behind.

Laughlin and Democrat Sen. Sharif Street both see the harm caused to communities of color, disproportionately prosecuted for possession.

“This bill will address some of the past inequities, by either expunging or sealing the records of people who’ve previously been convicted of nonviolent cannabis crimes,” Street said.

Both senators have put thought into keeping kids safe.

“The guy in the alley doesn’t necessarily check IDs to see how old you are,” Street said. “Responsible, labeled cannabis providers in Pennsylvania who are licensed, they will.”

But not everyone agrees.

“Why does the American Academy of Pediatrics, a group of 67,000 pediatricians oppose legalization? It’s frankly because they see the commercialization that happens in states that legalize and that impact that it has on a young age,” said Dan Bartkowiak, communications director for the Pennsylvania Family Institute.

Street says marijuana will be taxed and regulated.

“I think the black market will disappear and when it does, we’ll all be a little bit safer because of it,” Street said.

Bartkowiak isn’t so optimistic.

“That has not happened in any of the states that have legalized or experimented with marijuana,” Bartkowiak.

A co-sponsorship memo was sent Wednesday morning, so there are still many public hearings and discussions to come.

Laughlin says Republican leadership isn’t totally against the bill right now.

“They want to see this play out a little bit, get some feedback before they jump in or don’t, but they’ve certainly given me a free pass to do what I feel that I need to,” Laughlin said.

For more information about the bill click here.

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