HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Gov. Tom Wolf has said it is time to look at legalizing recreational marijuana, and polls suggest the majority of Pennsylvanians would approve, but the debate rages on.
“Embrace that and welcome a new industry because the old industries, coal and steel, a lot of ways are dying. They’re not coming back,” state Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Delaware/Montgomery) said.
Firefighter and activist Will Jones isn’t quite ready to embrace this new industry. He sees a lot on his job in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. It also happens to be the third busiest firehouse in the country.
“To see a kid, 1- or 2-year-old, that is having seizures in an apartment filled with marijuana smoke, those are things that really impact me,” said Jones, a communications outreach associate with Smarter Approach Marijuana.
Leach believes his Adult-Use Cannabis Bill could make a bigger impact, safely allowing people 21 and over to consume, home grow, and right wrongs of the legal system that targets minorities.
“There would be money invested into communities that have been decimated by prohibition, mostly in the form of education funding,” Leach said.
Jones believes that’s a pipe dream.
“We see that no state that has legalized marijuana has seen a reduction in their overall prison population since they legalized marijuana because at the end of the day, this does not deal with the heart of the issue,” Jones said.
For Jones, the “heart” is made up of two things: people in power who target minorities, who are four times more likely to be arrested for drugs, and predatory advertisement.
“Juul is creating an epidemic of vaping among youth in 2019. So, why are they magically going to change their marketing practices because we allow them to have marijuana?” Jones said.
Leach agrees — to an extent. He said there needs to be a cap on how often and the methods in which marijuana is advertised.
“We support those sort of reasonable regulations, but we don’t ban cigarettes, we don’t ban alcohol, we don’t ban Twinkies, and we shouldn’t ban cannabis,” Leach said.