State Rep. Jake Wheatley of Pennsylvania has launched an online petition in support of his bill to legalize recreational marijuana in the state. Wheatley announced his intention to sponsor the bill last month and said that he plans to introduce the measure in the state general assembly soon.
Wheatley said in a press release on Tuesday that House Bill 2600, as the measure is known, will provide benefits to the state that outweigh the risks.
“There are tremendous benefits to legalizing marijuana and few downsides,” Wheatley said. “It’s estimated that legalization would generate more than $580 million in annual tax revenue for Pennsylvania. That’s money to balance our budget, strengthen our economy, bolster our workforce, and improve our schools.”
Wheatley noted that the legalization of cannabis will allow law enforcement agencies to reallocate resources and focus on more serious crime. He also said that legalizing pot will deny organized crime a significant source of revenue.
“What’s more, legalization would save taxpayers millions in enforcement costs while freeing up crime-fighting resources to combat serious, violent crime,” said Wheatley. “Prohibiting recreational use of marijuana does nothing to meaningfully reduce access to this relatively safe drug. On the other hand, continuing prohibition allows organized crime – for whom marijuana is a major money-maker – to flourish.”
Bill Announced Last Month
Wheatley announced last month that he would introduce legislation to legalize the recreational use and sale of cannabis in Pennsylvania. The bill also includes provisions that would expunge the criminal records of people convicted of crimes legalized by the measure. Wheatley told local media that the Commonwealth should follow the lead of states that have already legalized cannabis.
“States from coast to coast have embraced legalization and those states are reaping the economic and criminal justice benefits,” Wheatley said. “It is time Pennsylvania joins with those states in leaving behind the ugly stigma of marijuana.”
Wheatley added “that recent polling shows that a majority of Pennsylvanians support legalization. This is an idea whose time has come.”
Reefer Madness All Over Again
Opposition to legalizing marijuana in Pennsylvania surfaced soon after Wheatley announced his intention to introduce the bill. Stephen Miskin, a spokesperson for state House of Representatives Republicans, attempted to equate cannabis with more dangerous drugs.
“Legalizing marijuana? Why not legalize heroin, why not legalize cocaine?” Miskin asked.
Patrick Nightingale of Pittsburgh NORML said that Miskin was resorting to “scaremongering” and avoiding an “honest debate” on the issue.
“Mr. Miskin is clearly ignorant of the fact that no one in the entire history of the human race has ever died from a cannabis overdose — in fact it’s impossible,” said Nightingale. “That fact alone demonstrates what a ridiculous statement the spokesperson made.”
Medical Marijuana Legalized in 2016
Pennsylvania legalized the medicinal use and sale of cannabis with the passage of Senate Bill 3, which was signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf in April 2016. Legal sales of medicinal cannabis began in February 2018. To date, 52,000 patients have registered for the state medical marijuana program and 30,000 have already received their state identification cards. More than 700 physicians have been approved to participate in the program by the state.