How long before Pennsylvania legalizes?

How long before Pennsylvania legalizes?

Thor Benson / Cannabis News Box Contributor

Though there’s a lot of support for legalization in Pennsylvania, with around 60 percent in favor, many say it may be a while before the state actually legalizes. According to Republican State Senator Pat Browne, it’s not happening any time soon. Many argue Pennsylvania is slow to reform its laws, and that applies to legalization too.

“The reality is that Pennsylvania’s Republican Party controls both the House and the Senate. Therefore, it controls what legislation moves through committee and is considered for a full vote,” Patrick Nightingale, executive director of Pittsburgh NORML, told Cannabis News Box. “At the moment, we do not have any GOP allies willing to join us and make the case to his or her caucus like Republican Senator Mike Folmer did with medical marijuana in 2013.”

Nightingale said especially in the House in Pennsylvania, there are many harsh critics of legalization. Until the makeup of Pennsylvania’s legislature changes, there will be nearly no chance that legalization can happen in the state.

“We need to make the case to our conservative friends and win them over,” Nightingale said. “Generally, opponents of legalization are concerned about an increase in DUI and potentially traffic accidents and fatalities, an increase in teen marijuana use, the ‘gateway drug’ myth and the risks of increased criminality associated with a legal cannabis distribution system that, at present, is basically ‘all cash.’ We have statistics from legal states that address these concerns and show that they are largely unfounded.”

Nightingale believes there are many Republicans who will never change their minds about cannabis, but he said some might eventually. He believes that when politicians realize how much money the state can make from selling cannabis, they may warm up to the idea of legalizing cannabis.

Though it is great that cannabis revenues can help fund government projects, Nightingale said there are more pressing reasons to legalize cannabis in Pennsylvania. He pointed to racial and economic issues that have arisen in the state due to the prohibition of cannabis.

“Twenty-Thousand Pennsylvanians annually are charged with a minor cannabis possession offense,” Nightingale said. “Pennsylvanians of color are 5 times more likely than their white counterparts to be charged with a marijuana possession crime. A possession conviction is a misdemeanor that will stay on one’s permanent record. Merely being charged with a misdemeanor can result in loss of public housing, loss of custodial rights and loss of employment.”

It doesn’t look like Pennsylvania will be legalizing any time soon, but we’ll have to see how things change after the next election. Its clear legalization has a lot of support among residents, and it’s also clear there are many important reasons why legalization needs to happen.