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Weed would be sold at state's liquor stores under Lancaster rep's proposal

Marijuana

A marijuana plant.

State stores in Pennsylvania would start selling marijuana along with wine and liquor if a bill supported by a Lancaster state representative becomes law.

Sponsors of the legislation cite a report that says legalizing recreational adult use of marijuana in Pennsylvania would create a $1.66 billion industry, add more than 18,000 jobs and generate over $580 million in tax revenue.

State Rep. David Delloso, a Democrat from Delaware County who introduced the bill Monday, wants state stores to have the monopoly on legal marijuana sales to adults 21 years of age and older.

The bill wouldn’t legalize marijuana cultivation for personal use.

Marijuana would be “well taxed and well regulated to protect the kids,” Delloso said in a phone interview. “When I was a kid, you knew what bars would sell you a six-pack, but you knew that no matter how hard you tried, you weren’t getting out of a state store with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s.”


Tax revenue

In a memo seeking co-sponsors, Delloso said allowing companies to sell the drug would amount to “putting profits before the well-being of our communities.”

The bill would allow for the imposition of gross receipt and excise taxes if passed. And it would speed up the expungement of arrest records for those convicted of marijuana-related crimes.

Rep. Mike Sturla, a Democrat who represents Lancaster city, is one of the bill’s 24 co-sponsors. None of the supporters are Republicans.


Governor’s position

Delloso introduced the bill less than a week after Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, reversed his opposition to legalization and asked lawmakers to consider it.

Wolf has supported decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana, and in 2016 he signed Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana law.

“Gov. Wolf believes the General Assembly should debate and consider legalizing adult-use marijuana and all ideas should be on the table as to the best means to do that,” spokesman J.J. Abbott said in an email. “We are reviewing this specific proposal.”

But the bill could well be dead on arrival as leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature, including House Majority Leader Bryan Cutler of Lancaster County, oppose legalization.

Cutler has told LNP that legalizing the drug could create unintended problems for banking, insurance and other areas.

But Delloso said Lancaster County Republicans may change their minds if farmers see marijuana as a potential crop.

“Pennsylvania’s family farmers struggle every day,” Delloso said. “There’s no reason this shouldn’t turn into a cash crop and shore up Pennsylvania's family farms.”

He also said tax revenue from marijuana sales would boost school funding and provide senior citizens with property tax relief.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania says the state spends tens of millions of dollars annually enforcing a ban on marijuana for no public gain.  

Marijuana for recreational use is now legal in 11 states.

Sturla said state stores are a natural fit for marijuana sales, but doubts legalization will happen quickly.

“I think we can learn from the states that have already legalized it,” he said. “One thing we know from those states is most issues have occurred with the edibles. We can be more cautious about that than maybe the other states were.”

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