The legalization of recreational marijuana has been trending across the country. California, Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts joined Colorado, Alaska, Washington and Oregon in legalizing recreational marijuana last November and, since then, several bills proposing legalization have turned up in states across the U.S. The latest state to propose ending prohibition is Pennsylvania. The state’s Auditor General Eugene DePasquale proposed that Pennsylvania follow in the footsteps of the other states and create a recreational marijuana industry. Many states have seen great financial benefits from ending prohibition and DePasquale’s proposal revealed all the ways that Pennsylvania may benefit in similar ways.
A Means of Ending State Deficit
DePasquale used data from states that have already legalized the plant to estimate out how Pennsylvania may be affected. He claims that within 10 years, the marijuana industry would generate $20 billion a year with $200 million of that being generated as tax revenues for the state of Pennsylvania. It would also give jobs to approximately 280,000 people. DePasquale quoted a Quinnipac University poll that showed that 59 percent of American voters are in favor of legalization with only 36 percent against it. He proposed that all of this works in favor of helping Pennsylvania resolve its deficit and help the state to thrive economically.
Governor: “That’s Not Going to Help”
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf was not enthusiastic about the proposal. “I saw the report,” Wolf said. “I haven’t talked to auditor general. And I think he’s trying to be helpful in terms of the budget deficit. His calculation I think had it about $200 million. We have a $3 billion dollar deficit, so that’s not going to help.” He is however in favor of decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana possession so that those caught with marijuana only receive a civil fine as opposed to being jailed and receiving a criminal record. He is also intent on getting the medical marijuana program in the state functioning.
Watching and Waiting
Part of Wolf’s hesitation is his desire to see how other states, such as Colorado, Washington and Oregon, continue to run their programs. The fact that threats have been coming in from the Trump administration has made many nervous about partaking in any kind of marijuana reform because it involves standing out and possibly receiving unwanted attention as a result. Both press secretary Sean Spicer and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have expressed that the administration may decide to crack down on recreational marijuana. If this happens, there will definitely be a clash of wills.
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, still classified a Schedule I drug which is considered to be the most dangerous kind, having no medicinal uses. This is clearly an outdated law that almost no one believes to be true. Even the Trump administration has admitted to believing that medical marijuana can help those who are sick or dying. They may not do anything at all to change the industry but, right now, it’s a matter of waiting things out to see how they will unfold. In the meantime, DePasquale’s proposal is under consideration and may still stand to help the state with employment opportunities as well as generating the extra tax revenue.