Natalie Irula & Yaasmeen Piper
Staff Writer & Editor-in-Chief
Governor Tom Wolf announced his support for the legalization of recreational marijuana for residents over 21 last week.
In a tweet written on Sept. 25, Gov. Wolf wrote: “Today I’m with [Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman] to call for the legalization of recreational marijuana in PA.”
Lt. Gov. Fetterman visited all 67 counties in PA to listen to public opinion on the legalization of adult recreational marijuana use.
According to Gov. Wolf and Lt. Gov. Fetterman’s Announce Report, across the state, 65-70 percent supported the legalization. In Monroe County, out of the approximate 100 attendees, 90 percent were for legalization while only 7 percent were against.
Gov. Wolf also tweeted that he is calling for legislatures to decriminalize minor cannabis-related offenses and expunge past convictions of minor cannabis-related crimes. The report showed that residents supported this near-unanimously.
This push toward legalization is now supported by Attorney General Josh Shapiro. He stated on Twitter, just days after Gov. Wolf announcement, that he is “in support of efforts to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana use for Pennsylvanians,” after months of research and conversations with his law enforcement colleagues.
However, students are skeptical about the announcement.
“I mean, it’s a fun idea,” said student Danielle Tagliaferro, “Is it actually going to happen? Yea, probably not.”
Some students supported the idea of decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana.
“It really feels like common sense,” Tagliaferro said. “You have all these people in jail and for what? Smoking pot?”
Small possession of marijuana has been decriminalized in neighboring Northeast states like New York, Rhode Island and Connecticut, according to the website World Population Review.
Normal.org states that decriminalization means no arrest, prison time or criminal record for first-time possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal consumption.
However, House Republicans do not support Gov. Wolf’s announcement. In their official statement, the House Republicans said they are disappointed and frustrated with Gov. Wolf’s call for legalization.
“Our state is the midst of an opioid epidemic. Gov. Wolf signed a disaster declaration over the crisis and renewed the declaration six separate times since January 2018,” they wrote. “We do not believe easing regulations on illegal drugs is the right move in helping the thousands of Pennsylvanians who are battling drug addiction.”
PA legalized medical marijuana in 2016. The House Republicans stated that promoting recreational use of marijuana “sends a terrible and misleading message to the many Pennsylvanians who are beginning to utilize cannabis-derived medicines to treat illnesses.”
Currently, 33 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana in some form according to Governing.com. Pennsylvania would be the 12th state, plus the District of Columbia to legalize cannabis for recreational use.
Michelle Tanenbaum of the Philly Voice stated that Pennsylvania taxpayers have spent about $225.3 million toward the law enforcement marijuana laws between 2010 and 2016. With the legalization of recreational marijuana, not only would these sales reduce the amount of taxpayer money spent on marijuana laws, but it could help put more money back into communities.
Colorado was one of the first states to legalize recreational marijuana. Since 2014, the state has brought in over $7 billion in total marijuana sales, according to a Colorado.gov report. Certain sections of the state have put that money back into their community. According to CPR News, Aurora used the tax money for The Aurora Day Center, a place for homeless people to go during the day. The site also states that Pueblo and Adams County used the tax revenue to fund scholarships for underprivileged students.
However, The House Republicans said the legalization would have a negative impact on PA youth.
“Young people across the Commonwealth and our country are causing harm to themselves using vaping products, and the long-term impacts are still unknown,” they wrote. “For Gov. Wolf and Lt. Gov. Fetterman to choose now as the time to promote recreational marijuana is irresponsible and raises serious questions about their judgment over what they believe is the right direction for young Pennsylvanians.”
The 2018 Colorado impact report on marijuana legalization, stated that they did not see an impact of recreational marijuana use on high school graduation and drop-out rates. However, marijuana did remain the most common single reason for school expulsions (22 percent) and law enforcement referrals (24 percent) in the 2016-2017 school year. Still, The Graduation rate rose steadily from a 10-year low point of 72 percent in the 2009-2010 school year to 79 percent in the 2016-2017 school year. Over that same time period, the drop-out rate decreased from 3.1 percent to 2.3 percent, the report stated.
ESU student, Brian Cole said recreational legalization would barely have an impact on campus.
“A lot of people on campus smoke,” he said. “ If you want it, you can get it either way. The only real difference is you’d have to pay tax.”
Campus police declined to comment on how they think legalization would affect the campus.
“We now know the majority of Pennsylvanians are in favor of legalization, and that includes me,” Gov. Wolf said during his press conference. “I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish together, especially the criminal justice reforms I am proposing today, which will have an immediate positive influence on thousands of families across Pennsylvania.
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