The tax revenue from legalizing cannabis isn’t worth it, Pennsylvania lawmakers have warned
A day after New Jersey paved the way for its first legal recreational cannabis sales, possibly before the end of April, a Republican senator from Pennsylvania held a hearing Tuesday on what panelists described as the dangers to children and young people of the legalization of pot for adult use. .
The Senate Committee on Aging and Youth hearing, chaired by State Senator Judy Ward of Blair County, represented a counterpoint to a series of three Senate Law and Justice Committee hearings in February and March, presented as the preparation of a bill legalizing cannabis for recreational purposes. adults.
“This step would represent another monumental policy shift for the Commonwealth,” Ward said in his opening speech, referring to the legalization of medical cannabis in 2016. “Before taking this step, I strongly believe we need to consider the potential impact of this decision on our children and young people.
State Senator Maria Collett, a Democrat who represents parts of Bucks and Montgomery counties and is a minority chair of the Committee on Aging and Youth, strongly supports legalization but said, “we need to confront and deal with the potential harmful effects that legalization could pose to children, just as we do with alcohol and tobacco.
Ward’s Senate committee heard from law enforcement, public health and addictions experts about the risks of legalization — including the danger of candy-like cannabis-infused edibles — for children and youth. But two experts said there was no strong evidence that allowing cannabis use by adults led to increased use by teenagers.
Above the earlier law and justice hearings, led by state senator Mike Regan, a former law enforcement officer who represents parts of Cumberland and York counties, were cartels of foreign drugs. Regan wants to bankrupt them by legalizing and regulating weed sales.
Scott Bohn, executive director of the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, the first person to testify on Tuesday, criticized Regan’s hearings.
“I believe the citizens of Pennsylvania are entitled to the facts and deserve far better than what was presented during the marijuana legalization hearings at the Senate Law and Justice Committee. These hearings presented a very one-sided view,” Bohn said. “The table was set for the marijuana industry to testify despite their obvious conflict of interest in profiting from more Pennsylvanians using marijuana.”
Several panelists warned lawmakers not to get tempted by tax revenue.
Given the expected cost to society of legalization, “the only revenue windfall will be that which will be collected by the marijuana industry,” said retired judge Cheryl Allen, a Republican who was the first woman black woman elected to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania and is now a lawyer. at the Pennsylvania Family Institute, a conservative advocacy group in Harrisburg.
A recurring theme for panelists was the risk to children from edible forms of cannabis that look like candy.
Just three days after New Mexico began the legal sale of recreational cannabis for adults 21 and older on April 1, 14 children from an elementary school near Albuquerque were taken to hospital for examination after authorities discovered they ate cannabis-infused candy, said Luke Niforatos, executive vice president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a group in Alexandria, Va., that opposes legalization.
“I want you to challenge the idea that we can effectively regulate this drug to protect our children,” Niforatos told lawmakers.
Elyse Contreras, a public health expert who runs a program that monitors youth cannabis use for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, provided evidence from her state that legalizing cannabis use by adults had not resulted in an increase in teenage use since the state’s decision. the first recreational cannabis stores opened in 2014.
The percentage of middle school kids who consumed weed in the past 30 days has remained steady at around 5% since 2011, Contreras said. For high school students, that figure was around 21%, stable since 2005, and about the same as the national average, she said.
Even as talk of legalization in Pennsylvania appears to be gaining momentum, many Republicans, particularly in the House of Representatives, remain deeply opposed to change. But Pennsylvania may soon be almost surrounded by states where cannabis is legal, although it remains illegal at the federal level.
It’s already legal, although stores haven’t opened yet, in New Jersey and New York. Maryland is expected to vote on legalization in November. Delaware came close to fully legalizing cannabis last month when the House of Representatives two votes missed passing a legalization bill with the required three-fifths supermajority, according to the National Reform Organization. marijuana laws.