Gov. Shapiro aims to legalize recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Twenty-four states have legalized recreational marijuana. Gov. Josh Shapiro wants Pennsylvania to be No. 25.

“We are losing out on an industry, that once fully implemented, would bring in more than $250 million in annual revenue,” Shapiro said during his budget address Tuesday, calling on Pennsylvania lawmakers to send a bill to his desk legalizing recreational marijuana use.

Former Gov. Tom Wolf legalized medical marijuana in 2016.

“Obviously, there’s an economic benefit to it and that’s something that Gov. Shapiro was talking about. Generating revenue through taxing legal sale of cannabis, as opposed to untaxed cannabis sales in the illicit market,” said marijuana legalization advocate Patrick Nightingale, the Executive Director of Pittsburgh NORML.

Nightingale says Pennsylvania is losing out on potential tax revenue while other states across the region are cashing in.

“It’s legal in Ohio, it’s legal in New York, it’s legal in New Jersey, it’s legal in Maryland, it’s legal in Virginia, it’s legal in Michigan, it may very well become legal in West Virginia in the not too distant future,” Nightingale explained.

But not everyone is on board.

“We often hear a variety of tax revenue projections, but not about the costs. What are the expenses that are going to happen with a program like this?” questioned Dan Bartkowiak, the Director of Communications for the Pennsylvania Family Institute.

Bartkowiak is worried recreational legalization could make it even easier for young people to get their hands on cannabis and THC products.

“That’s not something that is going to be helpful to our communities. It’s going to have a variety of harms on children and families in our state,” Bartkowiak said.

Gov. Shapiro says he wants the bill to call for taxation and strict regulation on the recreational marijuana industry.

He also wants to see past marijuana possession convictions retroactively expunged.

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