I support Governor Wolf’s call to legalize recreational marijuana. With proper oversight and regulation, marijuana sales could lead to better outcomes for all of us. In the Age of COVID—which could go on for quite some time—government should be looking for common sense ways to sure up the economy.
Governor Wolf’s proposal can address both economic hardship and historical racial injustice. The Governor has called for revenue to be directed into grants for small businesses, 50% of which can go into marginalized communities who suffer from generational injustice.
Over the decades, the War on Marijuana has resulted in wickedly disparate outcomes. Black men are nearly four times as likely to be arrested for possession and sale of pot than white men despite the fact that people of all races smoke pot equally. Some of the funds can be used in restorative justice programs to assist people whose lives have been negatively impacted by the criminalization of marijuana. These include our friends and neighbors who have been otherwise law-abiding citizens.
Ending the War on Marijuana will also relieve police of another thing to surveil and enforce. Courts won’t have to hear cases. It will also be part of a smart and compassionate effort to reduce stresses in American life.
The legal profit from marijuana can diversify and strengthen our economy. Rather than a black market, legitimate business can take off. People can make a legitimate living. Auditor General DePasquale estimated that a 35% tax on marijuana would yield about
$580 million a year in state revenue. Even half or a quarter of that amount could be used for good during a time that people need relief.
Unsurprisingly, my opponent, House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-171) has come out against the Governor’s proposal. Hellbent on turning every interaction with the Governor into a steel cage match, he skirted addressing the issue of legalization. Instead, he turned it into yet another power play, saying that “the people’s representatives” have not been consulted.
Sadly, Benninghoff is misrepresenting the people. A majority of Pennsylvanians are in favor of legalizing marijuana. But it’s not surprising that a career politician lacking all independence from his party wouldn’t be in touch, especially a politician who’s benefited from one of the most extreme gerrymanders in the nation.
Now is a good time to move ahead and legalize marijuana.