Pennsylvania is on a path to potentially legalizing recreational marijuana after a Democratic state representative introduced a bill Monday permitting adults to possess, use and grow the plant.
Introduced by Rep. Jake Wheatley, House Bill 2600 would add Pennsylvania to the list of nine states and counting to legalize recreational marijuana in spite of federal prohibition while simultaneously reducing the strain on the commonwealth’s prison system.
In addition to letting adults legally use and grow the plant in private, Mr. Wheatley’s bill would also nullify previous marijuana-related convictions and “immediately release people jailed for crimes associated with cannabis,” he said in a statement.
“My legislation to legalize recreational cannabis rights the wrongs of the past. If this becomes law, anyone’s prior convictions that would be legal under my bill will have their criminal records wiped clean,” said Mr. Wheatley, a U.S Marine Corps veteran representing portions of Allegheny County, including Pittsburgh, the state’s second-most populated city.
“Those who have criminal histories related to cannabis would be expunged, and professional and driver’s licenses that were revoked or suspended due to cannabis-related crimes would be reinstated,” he added. “For far too long, the criminal justice system has unfairly punished Pennsylvanians, especially minorities, who are caught with cannabis.”
Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana in 2016, and a surveyed conducted the following year found that 56 percent of voters favored legalizing recreational pot as well, Franklin & Marshall College Poll concluded previously.
Democrats including Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale have since publicly announced their support for legalizing recreational marijuana, and the latter said at a rally Monday that the state stood to make millions of dollars in annual tax revenue if it implemented a system for regulating and taxing the plant.
“This is an issue that makes sense on so many levels, from reducing opioid addiction to criminal justice reform, creating jobs and bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars in recurring revenue,” said Mr. DePasquale, WGAL News 8 reported. “We can use that revenue to invest in kids, invest in health care and save taxpayer money.
“My office did a report. … We calculated that if marijuana is regulated and taxed the way about 10 other states now do it, Pennsylvania would bring in $681 million every year in new tax revenue,” he added.
Mr. Wheatley said in a statement that his bill would legalize the possession of cannabis products, such as edibles, and up to six cannabis plants. He previously said he intends to introduce legislation that would permit retail marijuana sales within the state.
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