Pennsylvania Should Totally Legalize it, State Auditor Concludes

More than 9.5 million Pennsylvania adults shouldn’t be subject to arrest for private amounts of marijuana, the state’s Auditor General Eugene DePasquale concluded this week. Rather, he said, the state should tax and regulate the sale of cannabis and realize hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.

‘It’s time for Pennsylvania to realize the benefits from regulating and taxing marijuana.”

Eugene DePasquale, Pennsylvania Auditor General

DePasquale, a popularly elected, independent reviewer, published a special report Thursday titled ‘Regulating and Taxing Marijuana. ’ The report examined the potential revenue opportunities provided by legalization. “It’s time for Pennsylvania to realize the benefits from regulating and taxing marijuana,” DePasquale concluded.

The report found that 21,000 adults were charged with marijuana offenses in Pennsylvania this past year, a waste of time and money in a state where polling indicates that 56 percent of voters support legalization. The state forfeits an estimated $581 million in retail cannabis sales taxes to the black market every year.

“Across the U.S., state after state is regulating and taxing marijuana,” the report stated. “This move reflects an observable shift in public outlook on adult use and on increasing acknowledgment of the financial and public health benefits associated with regulation and taxation. ”

There are thought to be 800,000 regular cannabis customers in Pennsylvania who spend about $2,000 a year, on average, on the botanical drug.

$581 Million in Annual State Revenue

Pennsylvania has had legal medical cannabis since 2016, and adult use decriminalization in cities such as Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. But it’s insufficient, DePasquale wrote:

“Stopping at decriminalization would be a costly mistake for the commonwealth, potentially leaving more than $581 million in annual tax revenue on the table. That revenue could help balance the state budget and provide job and business opportunities — and the way to access it’s for Pennsylvania to allow the cultivation, sale and purchase of marijuana. Pennsylvania’s budget challenges are now a consistent element in all state policy choices. Taxing marijuana offers a rare glimmer of financial hope, giving a way to refocus the state budget process away from filling its gaps. ”

In a press conference Thursday with DePasquale, Pittsburgh mayor Bill Pedato stated cannabis prohibition is not only unprofitable, but immoral.

“This problem not only has a revenue side to it, but in addition, it has a personal side to it — people whose lives are thrown out of balance because of the penalization of cannabis not being authorized, individuals that are unable to have access to housing or access to jobs or access to a chance in life,” Peduto said, according to reports.

DePasquale envisions steep taxes starting at 35 percent on cannabis to benefit the state’s most vulnerable, rather than prey on them.

“Legislators could focus on increasing funding for pre-K initiatives, veterans’ mental health access, and uninsured or underinsured at-risk kids,” his report stated. “With marijuana legal in neighboring Vermont, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, and with New Jersey, New York, Virginia, Connecticut and Delaware opening pathways to regulation, it’s critical that Pennsylvania not lose its prospective customers to other nations ’ markets,” the report added.

“I am not suggesting that this is something that has no drawback,” DePasquale said, according to news reports. “The reason why this is a weighted public policy issue is because there are pros and cons to it. If it had been all pro and no con, it probably would have been decided decades ago. ”

Pennsylvanians return to the polls. The swing state went for President Donald Trump in the 2016 election, but is now leading the country in young voter registrations, and is a crucial battleground in the coming November midterms.

Released at Fri, 20 Jul 2018 21:58:59 +0000

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