Auditor general believes Pennsylvania should legalize marijuana, tax sales

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania’s auditor general said legalizing marijuana could solve some of the state’s financial problems and bring in more than a quarter-million jobs over the next 10 years.

Marijuana is regulated and taxed in Alaska, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, California, Massachusetts and Maine. States like Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland are considered similar regulations. Auditor General Eugene DePasquale believes Pennsylvania needs to get on board as well.

"The regulation and taxation of the marijuana train has rumbled out of the station, and it is time to add a stop in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania," DePasquale said during a news conference Monday at the state Capitol.

According to a news release by the auditor general’s office, Colorado brought in $129 million in tax revenue from marijuana sales last year. The release said the marijuana industry has created an estimated 18,000 jobs there.

"The revenue that could be generated would help address Pennsylvania's revenue and spending issue. But there is more to this than simply tax dollars and jobs," DePasquale said. "There is also social impact, specifically related to arrests, and the personal, emotional and financial devastation that may result from such arrests."

DePasquale said that in Philadelphia alone, decriminalization has saved the city of Philadelphia $4.1 million.

He also believes legalizing marijuana and taxing the sales could be worth $20 billion and employ more than 280,000 people over the next decade.

"Obviously, regulation and taxation of marijuana is not something that should be entered into lightly," DePasquale said. "Should Pennsylvania join the growing number of states benefiting financially and socially from the taxation and regulation of marijuana, there are many things to consider, including details about age limits, regulatory oversight, licensing, grow policies, sale and use locations and possession limitations."

Among those who support DePasquale’s position is Patrick Nightingale, the executive director of the Pittsburgh National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

“We do not see an increase in DUIs. We do not see an increase in crime. We do not see an increase in teen drug or cannabis use,” Nightingale said.

Meanwhile, opponents worry about the impact of the current heroin epidemic and said that more research needs done on how to streamline the process.