Bye. House introduces marijuana legalization bill as boost to recreational marijuana

A bipartisan pair of representatives have announced plans to introduce a bill to legalize marijuana in Pennsylvania. The bill is largely similar to Art bipartisan Senate bill which has stalled since its introduction almost a year ago.

“Smoking marijuana should not be a crime,” said bill co-sponsor Aaron Kaufer (Luzerna). “We must prioritize law enforcement resources and redefine the narrative that doesn’t work in today’s society.”

The over 200 page bill, according to Kaufer (R-Louzern) and co-sponsor Emily Kinkead (D-Allegheny), addresses many of the concerns raised by both supporters and opponents of marijuana legalization. These include public safety; consumer protection; social equality and criminal justice reform; job creation; increasing tax revenues and eliminating the illegal marijuana market.

At a news conference announcing the bill, Kaufer estimated that legal marijuana sales could generate $420 million in tax revenue by the 2028-2029 fiscal year. (Yes, he made the obligatory joke). This number seems to come from report published by the Independent Revenue Service in March.

Kaufer further estimated that legalization could create about 33,000 jobs – from growing the plant to marketing and selling it.

If a legalization bill were to pass, it would need support from legislative leadership in the House and Senate. It is currently unclear whether party leaders have the appetite for such a bill. Still, legalization supporters see now as their best opportunity yet.

Governor Josh Shapiro has repeatedly expressed support for marijuana legalization; the federal department of justice has recommended an official reclassification of the substance to indicate that it is less risky than current law would assume; and bipartisan bills have now been introduced in both houses of the General Assembly.

“Today marks an important milestone,” Meredith Buettner, executive director of the Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition, said at a press conference announcing the bill’s introduction. “The party has been building and calls for bipartisan action have now reached a crescendo.”

The Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition is one of the state’s leading legalization lobbying groups, representing the majority of existing medical dispensaries.

Speaking to the press, Kinkead emphasized that the bill focuses on ensuring social equity in the emerging marijuana market. The stated goal of the legislation is to aid Pennsylvanians from communities most impacted by the war on drugs gain a foothold in the emerging cannabis industry.

A 2013 study often cited by legalization advocates found that black Americans were about four times more likely to be arrested for cannabis apply than white Americans, despite similar apply of the substance in both groups.

However, despite best efforts, it is unclear how effective this goal will be. Over the past year, the House subcommittee heard from numerous experts and business leaders in states that have already legalized cannabis. Advocates, policymakers and business owners have detailed the difficulties states like New York and California face in trying to bring equity to their respective legal marijuana markets through legislation

In many cases, potential minority business owners have had difficulty getting in to find funding for startups dealing in a substance with disputed legal status, especially when competing with growing domestic companies. This is happening in states where lawmakers have made conscious efforts to address inequities in their legalization legislation.

Subcommittee Pa. The House of Representatives is considering adding an equality element to potential cannabis legislation

“We should learn from all the other states on how best to do this and how to make the most of it,” Kinkead said of legalization.

Kinkead said the bill would include a concept known as “equity status” for Pennsylvanians looking to open a cannabis business who have been disproportionately affected by existing cannabis laws. Business license applicants who qualify for equity status would receive both priority status and access to certain financial benefits, such as a waiver of certain application fees.

Kinkead’s bill would grant equity status to applicants with prior cannabis charges, low-income applicants, and applicants who have lived for at least five of the last 10 years in Pennsylvania neighborhoods where marijuana-related arrests are disproportionately high.

The bill would also allow marijuana companies that agree to provide financial and technical support, mentoring or training to individuals who qualify for equity status, even if the company’s ownership is not

The bill would create an automatic expulsion process for Pennsylvanians who face nonviolent cannabis-related charges. It also includes a unique provision that allows Pennsylvanians serving time for any type of conviction to file a motion to have their conviction expunged if they have had prior marijuana-related charges. This is because sentencing guidelines often take previous convictions into account.

“If you want to talk about the entry drug, it’s basically about how marijuana is the entry drug,” Kinkead said. “This is a path to criminalization.”

The bill would also transfer 5% of all tax revenue collected from marijuana sales taxes to fund public defenders. As it stands, the state just this year provided $7.5 million in indigent defense funding for the first time in history.

Northumberland County District Attorney Michael O’Donnell also expressed his support for cannabis legalization at the press conference.

“The continued illegality of marijuana sends the wrong message,” O’Donnell said. “It cannot be that something so widely accepted by society is illegal under the law. As a result, breaking the law is permissible.”

Kaufer couldn’t say if or when such a bill would be passed, but he was positive.

“Our goal is to complete this task as quickly as possible,” Kaufer said when asked about the legislative work schedule. “We worked diligently to try to do something that could pass today.”

However, he acknowledged that there are challenges.

“We have a Democratic-led House, a Republican-led Senate and a Democratic governor,” Kaufer said. “Trying to thread that needle and working together to find an area of ​​compromise… it was an effort to get something done.”

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