Could Pennsylvania see legalization of recreational marijuana this year? 

March 12 – Members of the Health Subcommittee on Health Care and Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Corrections in Pennsylvania met yesterday to discuss Governor Josh Shapiro’s budget wishes to legalize recreational marijuana in the state. 

The subcommittees discussed the criminal justice of prohibition as well as possible benefits of legalizing cannabis. 

The conversation seemed to go back and forth between those in favor and those against. 

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7M pointed out, “This has been coming to a head here in Pennsylvania. Maybe we’re lucky because we have some of the studies that show us now the true dangers of legalized marijuana. They pointed out that a lot of the major medical health associations are opposed to state legalization, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, family physicians, Medical Association, psychiatric association, etc. So I hope this is something that gains a lot of traction because we can’t just follow along with the crowd on this.”

A number of people think that because liquor is legal, marijuana should be, too. 

Jansen said, “Why would we introduce another substance that’s worse, far worse than alcohol knowingly into our system right now? Alcohol is very dangerous. That has nothing to do with whether or not we legalize yet another horrific substance that we have not studied in any way shape or form.”

Attorney Clint Barkdoll said, “I’m curious where that goes. I mean, it appears there could be the votes in the General Assembly to pass that. We know we’re now getting into the prime season of the budget season. Yes, this is one of Governor’s Shapiro’s proposals as part of the new budget, but they have until June 30 to address it.” 

The votes look like they are in the House to pass it. Even a handful of Republicans in the Senate are on board with it. 

Barkdoll suggested, “If I had to place a bet I’d say the odds are better than 50/50 that this becomes law.”

Jansen added, “Here’s the sad fact for Colorado. For every dollar gained from this they spent $4.50 to mitigate the negative effects of legalization.”

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM asked, “What about Oregon? They’re pulling this back here.”

PA Representative Rob Kauffman was part of the hearings yesterday. 

He said, “They brought folks out to tell us why we needed to do it, criminal justice issues. One agent even said as we were talking about the effect on youth, that we needed to legalize it so we could monitor more closely how youth are getting at it or something like that. It was odd. They had testifiers talking about all the benefits of medical marijuana, which we already have and everybody seems to be heartily utilizing it here in the Commonwealth.”

Ryan said, “All you have to do is blink an eye and you can get a medical marijuana card.”

Kauffman agreed, “It’s not hard. It is not hard. I mean, all you have to do is just sit outside the dispensaries and see the trail of folks going in there. So yeah, it’s not difficult to do that. We also had a press conference with the Pennsylvania Family Institute just highlighting the societal harms, all the medical organizations who are coming out in opposition to it and really what we don’t know, the studies that haven’t been done, what we have no idea the long term effects on our youth, trying to highlight those things. I think this is a more medium term push. I don’t think it will happen this year. I just don’t think it will happen this year.”

Jansen said, “My hope with that is we are having better studies coming out now showing real harms to this and showing it’s not not addictive. There’s lots of feedback loops that make it very addictive including the fake idea that it helps with anxiety. It actually increases anxiety. You use it and you feel better and then as you stop using it, the anxiety grows and you use it, but that’s called an addiction, folks.” 

Kauffman asked, “Then do you have to be on antidepressants to try to mitigate what you just caused?”

Jansen added, “There’s then the psychotic issues and especially in younger people. There are bodies of evidence now showing that this may cause schizophrenia. Now that might be a tiny percent of people. Would you take a chance on something that could cause schizophrenia?”

“Or suicidal ideation?” Kauffman asked. 

Jansen agreed, “Much more prevalent would be a paranoia, suicidal ideation. We’re seeing the harm and the development of the brain harm when you start using it younger and using it regularly. There’s just so much evidence coming out now about the harm because this is very potent. We have not fully studied it. How we can say it’s okay to just recreationally give a substance that we’ve not fully studied that impairs you. Think of the driving, think of the other accidents that can happen with people on these drugs. The funniest thing to me was this Representative Rich Krajewski, him saying about oh, we’ll get the correct dosage. There is no correct dosage amount. This stuff is very potent. Then testing what’s actually in it. Well, first of all, the black market grows when you legalize marijuana in other states. We’ve seen that. So you’re still going to have the stuff out there that could be polluted, but it’s the marijuana itself that’s the experimental dangerous substance, not necessarily what it’s laced with.”