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Rep. Wheatley introduces bill to legalize marijuana for recreational use in Pa.

| Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018, 11:00 a.m.
Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District, has introduced legislation to legalize marijuana in the state.
Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District, has introduced legislation to legalize marijuana in the state.

Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District, has introduced a proposal to legalize recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania for people over age 21.

Wheatley’s bill would build on the state’s medical marijuana program and allow people to have up to six cannabis plants, with up to three flowering at a time, according to a news release. It would also allow people to use edible versions of the drug.

Wheatley said in the release the most important piece of the legislation is its criminal justice reforms, including releasing people jailed on marijuana charges, expunging criminal records related to the drug and reinstating drivers licenses that were revoked or suspended in relation to marijuana.

“For far too long, the criminal justice system has unfairly punished Pennsylvanians, especially minorities, who are caught with cannabis,” Wheatley said in the release.

Using cannabis publicly and driving under its influence would remain illegal, according to the release.

The bill would also replace the word “marijuana” with “cannabis” in state code, to “stop the demonization of Mexican immigrants and minorities, who some Southern and Midwest politicians in the 1930s claimed were bringing the plant into the country to use as poison,” according to the release.

To move forward, Wheatley’s bill would need to be called for a vote by the state House Republican leaders. The present session of the General Assembly ends in November and legislators have a long list of bills they are considering.

Co-sponsoring the legislation are Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill; Ed Gainey, D-Lincoln-Lemington, and a number of Philadelphia-area Democrats.

A Franklin and Marshall poll in 2017 found that nearly 60 percent of Pennsylvanians support legalization.

Democratic Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has said he supports legalization, releasing a report estimating the change would bring in $581 million a year in new revenue. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto has also supported legalization.

Nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational use. Pennsylvania legalized the drug for medical use in 2016. More than 52,000 people have registered to participate in the program, according to the Department of Health.

Wes Venteicher is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Wes at 412-380-5676, wventeicher@tribweb.com or via Twitter @wesventeicher.

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