Penn. state representative introduces bill to legalize cannabis, release non-violent drug offenders arrested for pot
By Rick Schettino
Sep 28, 2018
Pennsylvania state representative Jake Wheatley introduced legislation to permit the recreational use of cannabis products for adults 21 or older. Should it pass, the measure would also impose a tax which legislators hope could generate more than $500 million in revenue annually, in addition to saving the state money by freeing up resources from its criminal justice system. It would also expunge the records of those jailed for pot-related crimes.
“My bill would immediately release people jailed for crimes associated with cannabis,” Wheatley said in a statement. “Those who have criminal histories related to cannabis would be expunged, and professional and driver’s licenses that were revoked or suspended due to cannabis-related crimes would be reinstated. For far too long, the criminal justice system has unfairly punished Pennsylvanians, especially minorities, who are caught with cannabis.”
The newly proposed measure would build on the infrastructure already created under the state’s medical marijuana program which was signed into law in April 2016.
Furthermore, the bill proposes that the word cannabis replace the word marijuana throughout Act 16 of 2016, and calls for a diversity initiative which would include incentives for the hiring of women and minorities.
“I propose that with the revenue generated from a wholesale, sales and retail tax, we could deposit 85 percent of it into the General Fund and provide the Department of Corrections with the other 15 percent,” Wheatley continued. “That money would go toward positive things such as re-entry programs, workforce development, and expungement services, along with mentoring and technical assistance in our communities.”
Wheatley recently spoke at a rally in Pittsburgh. Both that city’s mayor, Bill Peduto and Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale agree that recreational cannabis should be legalized for residents 21 or older.
Back in August of 2018, Wheatley announced the launch of an online petition in support of the legalization of marijuana in the state. The petition points to the success and popularity of the state’s medical marijuana program and outlines the ways in which legalization would benefit the commonwealth.
According to Rep. Wheatley, 60 percent of people live in Pennsylvania support legalization.