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Bill Legalizing Recreational Marijuana To Be Introduced In Pennsylvania House

HARRISBURG, PA – The push to legalize recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania took another step forward on Monday as lawmakers announced plans to introduce a bill in the House, the Pennsylvania Capital-Star reports.

The co-sponsors, Reps. Aaron Kaufer (R-Luzerne) and Emily Kinkead (D-Allegheny), said their measure has enough similarities to a bill introduced in the state Senate to advance quickly through both chambers of the general assembly and reach the desk of Gov. Josh  Shapiro, who fully supports legalization.

The bill creates a framework for the sale of recreational marijuana in the state while expunging criminal charges against people found guilty of non-violent cannabis-related charges.

“Smoking marijuana should not be a crime,” said Kaufer. “We need to prioritize law enforcement resources and redefine a narrative that is not working in today’s society.”

Adding to the sense of urgency is the acknowledgment by many lawmakers that Pennsylvania is losing customers to other nearby states where marijuana is legal for adult use, including neighboring Ohio where licenses have already been issued for dispensaries to begin recreational sales.

“We are surrounded by states that have already legalized the use the adult use of cannabis, and they are taking advantage of the fact that we have not,” Kinkead said. “There are Pennsylvania dollars to be spent on adult use [cannabis], and they want to capitalize on it when we should be doing that. We should be using Pennsylvania dollars in Pennsylvania to support Pennsylvanians, and we should be learning from all of the other states about the way to do this best and the way to best capitalize on it.”

A new report projected that within the first year of legalization, there would be up to $2.8 billion in adult-use marijuana sales in Pennsylvania, generating as much as $720 million in tax revenue and creating at least 45,000 jobs.

Sen. Sharif Street stressed the importance of making weed legal in Pennsylvania.

“Our citizens are going across the state [border] and they’re buying cannabis now,” he said. “And moreover, those who don’t do that, who are buying in the illicit market, they don’t know what they’re buying. It could be laced with something. It could be laced with anything.”

The measure would include “equity status” for people looking to open a cannabis business who have been disproportionately affected by existing cannabis laws. Applicants who qualify for equity status would get both priority status and access to certain financial benefits.

The status would be granted to applicants with previous cannabis-related charges, applicants with low income, and those who have lived for at least five of the last 10 years in Pennsylvania neighborhoods with disproportionately high marijuana arrests.

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