Categories Op/Ed

Editorial: Pa. Auditor General’s Report Gives Case for Legal Marijuana

Pennsylvania should take a look at a report from Auditor General Eugene DePasquale about marijuana.

The report released on Thursday, July 19, shows that 8.38 percent of Pennsylvanians age 21 and over use marijuana at least monthly. In the states of Washington and Colorado, where recreational marijuana use has been fully legal since 2012, adult users spend an average of $2,080 per year on marijuana.

This means that if the nearly 800,000 Pennsylvanians age 21 and over who use marijuana at least once a month were to spend the same amount, it would add up to $1.66 billion. And if Pennsylvania were to tax the growth, cultivation and sale of marijuana at 35 percent, the state would collect roughly $581 million in taxes every year.

Granted, that’s not huge in the scheme of the entire state budget of $32.7 billion. But more than half a billion dollars a year that could be used either to spend for the public good, to reduce our taxes or some combination of the two would be a big victory for Pennsylvania.

Some people predicted utter chaos when Colorado and Washington decided to legalize pot. Quite simply, that didn’t happen. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper opposed legalization when the citizens of his state approved legal recreational pot use in 2012 — a move he called “reckless” at the time. But he later acknowledged that the fears did not come to pass. Marijuana use remained at largely the same levels as before legalization; there was no big spike in impaired driving. There was a small increase in use by teenagers at first, but that leveled off. Use by senior citizens did rise; some found it was better for pain relief than prescription drugs. Mr. Hickenlooper should be respected for acknowledging that he was wrong.

Here in Pennsylvania, we should do what we can to get half a billion dollars in tax revenue from people who will be only too glad to pay the tax in exchange for not having to hide their usage.

And our congressional delegation should act as well. It is ludicrous that the federal government will not get out of the way of the states on this issue. Since the federal ban on marijuana remains, banks and credit unions will not provide financial services to marijuana dispensaries, forcing them to deal in cash only — not just to take payment

from customers, but for their payrolls and other business expenses. Members of Congress who say they support states’ rights should show that support by passing legislation to repeal the federal ban and leave the decision up to the states.

The preceding editorial is the opinion of The Elizabethtown Advocate. Other opinions on this page are those of individual contributors. The Advocate aims to give its readers a wide variety of opinions.

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