State Rep. Jake Wheatley to introduce Pennsylvania recreational marijuana bill | Weed | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

State Rep. Jake Wheatley to introduce Pennsylvania recreational marijuana bill

Wheatley says legal marijuana could help fill the state budget and reduce criminal-justice costs.

click to enlarge State Rep. Jake Wheatley to introduce Pennsylvania recreational marijuana bill
Photo courtesy of Wheatley's official Facebook
Jake Wheatley
If recreational marijuana becomes legal in Pennsylvania in the near future, its roots could be traced back to Pittsburgh.

State Rep. Jake Wheatley (D-Hill District) plans to introduce a bill to legalize the sale and purchase of marijuana throughout Pennsylvania. And not just medical marijuana, which has been sold since February, but recreational marijuana. This bill, if enacted into law, would also expunge criminal records for marijuana related crimes that would become legal under the new law.

“States from coast to coast have embraced legalization and those states are reaping the economic and criminal justice benefits,” Wheatley said in a July 25 statement. “It is time Pennsylvania joins with those states in leaving behind the ugly stigma of marijuana.”

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, a pro-legalization advocate, recently released a report estimating the state could see $580 million in annual revenue through marijuana legalization. Nine states and Washington D.C. have passed laws legalizing marijuana. Washington state brought in $319 million in revenue in 2017 thanks to its legal-marijuana program.

A Franklin & Marshall College poll from September 2017 showed 59 percent of Pennsylvanians approve of legalizing recreational marijuana. Local elected officials like Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Braddock Mayor and Lt. Gov. candidate John Fetterman are also supportive of legal marijuana.

With the public support, Wheatley said now is the time to make marijuana legal in the state.

“This is why it comes as no surprise that recent polling shows that a majority of Pennsylvanians support legalization,” Wheatley said. “This is an idea whose time has come.”

But the bill could face obstacles. Governor Tom Wolf (D-York) has been a vocal supporter of the state's medical marijuana program, but hasn't embraced pushes for recreational use. And to even reach Wolf’s desk, the bill would have to go through the Republican controlled state House and state Speaker Mike Turzai (R-Marshall), a legal-marijuana opponent.

In a July 25 tweet posted by Stephen Caruso of the PLS Reporter, state House Republican spokesperson Stephen Miskin said supporting legal marijuana could lead to intoxicated drivers and questioned the benefits of using the revenue legalization would raise.

“Legalizing marijuana? Why not legalize heroin, why not legalize cocaine?” Miskin said.

Patrick Nightingale of marijuana-advocacy group Pittsburgh NORML said Miskin is engaging in "scaremongering" and avoiding an "honest debate" about marijuana use. He said none of the nine states with legal marijuana have legalized harder drugs.

"Mr. Miskin is clearly ignorant of the fact that no one in the entire history of the human race has ever died from a cannabis overdose - in fact its impossible," said Nightingale. "That fact alone demonstrates what a ridiculous statement the Spokesperson made."