Pennsylvania lawmakers are considering a bill that would put recreational marijuana on the books by legalizing consumption for adults 21 and over, but support for such legislation is uncertain. Law enforcement and some policymakers have expressed concerns over making marijuana more widely available. Supporters of legalization said they believe the first step in Pennsylvania might be allowing medical marijuana first, according to The Daily Review of Towanda.
The state’s legalization bill, SB 528, introduced in February, would legalize the plant and regulate it under the state’s Liquor Control Board. Another Bill, SB 3, would legalize the use of marijuana by some medical patients. Pennsylvania's legislative session began in January and continues throughout the year, with no specific end date.
SB 528 has faced backlash from the beginning. State Rep. Matt Baker, a Republican, described marijuana as a “gateway” drug, according to the Review. Other lawmakers have cited Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper’s comments earlier this year that legalizing marijuana in his state in 2012 was a “bad idea” and that other governors should “wait a couple of years” before doing the same.
"Without the proper regulation, or even with the proper regulation, you're still going have the black market effect," Sheriff Clinton Walters of Bradford County told The Daily Review. "You're going to end up with more indoor grows, more marijuana farms." The bill is currently in the Law and Justice Committee, which will decide whether to release it to the Senate floor. The bill was previously introduced in 2013 but did not make it to a vote.
Under Pennsylvania law, marijuana use is illegal for any purpose. However, possession of small amounts for personal use is considered a misdemeanor. According to the latest polling, 51 percent of Pennsylvania voters support legalizing marijuana for use by adults. A much higher proportion of voters – 88 percent – support legalizing medical marijuana.
Some lawmakers are hopeful that medical marijuana has a better chance of making headway in 2015. "I imagine the focus will be on medical this year," state Sen. Daylin Leach, a Democrat, told Lehigh Valley Live in February. "It's sort of an easier lift for some people, and in some peoples' lives, more urgent. There are sick people who need their medicine."
Four states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational use. Twenty-three states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana for medical purposes.