Marijuana legalization crosses political lines in PA
What started out as a partisan effort in Pennsylvania is now resulting in bipartisan legislation. Both Sen. Sharif Street, a Democrat from Philadelphia, and Sen. Dan Laughlin, a Republican from Erie, PA, are joining forces and co-sponsor a bill that would legalize marijuana for recreational use in the state. While recreational marijuana has long been an agenda goal for state Democrats, Republicans currently control both legislative chambers.
Laughlin is on board after speaking with a number of marijuana advocacy groups, observing the evidence from states that have already legalized, and understanding that his job as a legislator is to do what’s best for the people. Arresting constituents for possessing a naturally produced plant has become increasingly unpopular over the past two decades.
Shariff argues that the time has long come to end the government’s prohibition on marijuana, noting that the failing War on Drugs has been an “expensive failure” that has criminalized patients, personal freedoms, and impacted generations through unnecessary incarcerations for years to come. The prohibition on cannabis is also a growing burden on PA taxpayers who fund the criminal justice system.
A Bipartisan Approach to the Legalization of Adult Use Cannabis, or SB473, would legalize the possession and retail sales of marijuana for any persons over the age of 21. Nonviolent marijuana convictions are also legislated to be expunged, and possession of up to a certain amount would be decriminalized. PA lawmakers are also interested in the potential revenue the growing industry could potentially bring to the state, noting that “hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues” could be collected from the sale of marijuana alone.
Efforts to legalize marijuana in the commonwealth have failed in the past, but they’ve never received bipartisan support. Cannabis legalization is a taboo topic for conservative lawmakers, who are held accountable by their conservative voting bases. However, legalization has gained bipartisan support from the public, and said support is obvious across the nation.