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Pennsylvania To Legalize Recreational Marijuana?

One year ago, PA senators Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery/Delaware, and Larry Farnese, D-Philadelphia, offered a bill for the legalization of recreational marijuana to PA’s Liquor Control Board. This occurred in the midst of legislation revolving around the implementation of the state’s recently-approved medical marijuana.

The senators cited the bill as an effort to reduce the amount of time PA law enforcement would ‘waste’ on marijuana-related events, and to keep people out of the criminal justice system for “smoking a plant”.

Senator Daryn Leach acknowledged that the recreational bill would likely not gain any headway for some time.

“I imagine the focus will be on medical this year. It’s sort of an easier lift for some people”, Leach said. “There are sick people who need their medicine.”

Back then, both senators were met with strict resistance towards the notion of a full recreational pass on the drug. However, those opinions are leaning far more moderate just one year later.

Leach believes that the state’s implementation of medical marijuana “will ultimately lead to recreational marijuana.”

“It will de-stigmatize marijuana, it will create marijuana-based institutions.”

Both senators arguments towards legalization have remained the same over the past year: lessening the load on the criminal justice system, bringing a blossoming new industry into the state, and bringing new money into the hands of the state government through the drug’s taxation.

Both senators have referenced the staggering pot profits seen by the state of Washington after it legalized the drug:  $70 million within a single year.

The bill’s opposition is no longer focusing on the notion that marijuana alone is a dangerous substance, although there have been several reports of states who have legalized recreational use seeing spikes in their rates of automotive accidents. Instead, they are looking at the possibility for marijuana to be used as a gateway drug that could sway many into going down more dangerous paths.

Rep. Matthew Baker strongly believes in the drug’s potential to serve as a gateway to curious users.

Baker is the acting chairman of PA’s House Health Committee, and was one of the strongest voices speaking out against medical marijuana.

He claims that pro-legalization media has provided the public with “a substantial amount of misleading information, causing many to believe that marijuana is harmless and is a panacea and miracle drug for a plethora of medical diseases.” However, he does not believe that the empirical data or studies done on the drug support these claims.

But the legalization of medical marijuana has caused many to be more supportive of the drug than they were in the past, which may explain why Sens. Leach and Farnese began to push towards recreational so quickly after medical was put in place.

A poll performed in March 2019 by Franklin & Marshall college showed that 59% of PA residents were in support of recreational legalization.

Written by Joseph Detrano, CAS Science Writer
Disclaimer: The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Center of Alcohol & Substance Use Studies.