Pennsylvania bill would legalize pot, make state the only seller | TribLIVE.com
Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania bill would legalize pot, make state the only seller

Jacob Tierney
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Hemp, a cousin of marijuana, is grown for a variety of purposes, including CBD oils and fibers used in a variety of products. The plant contains almost no THC, the psychoactive chemical found in marijuana.

Pennsylvania could be getting into the pot business.

A bill under consideration in the state House of Representatives would legalize the recreational use of marijuana — and give the state a monopoly on its sale.

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board would be responsible for establishing and operating pot shops, similar to the state-owned stores that sell wine and liquor.

Rep. David Delloso, D-Delaware County, who introduced House Bill 1899, said putting marijuana sales under the state’s direct control would ensure Pennsylvania gets the maximum benefit.

“What I’m afraid of is, without this bill, if we don’t sell cannabis in the state stores, big corporate interests throughout the United States are going to come to Pennsylvania and they’re going to put corner stores up,” he said in a statement. “They aren’t going to provide family sustaining jobs, and all the profits are going to leave Pennsylvania.”

The bill proposes retail sales of marijuana be taxed at 19%, which would pump an estimated $581 million into the state budget every year, according to Delloso.

The PLCB would be responsible for crafting many of the specific regulations about the program. It’s too early to say what those regulations may look like.

“We generally leave policy discussions regarding the future of this agency up to the General Assembly and the governor,” the board said in a statement. “If, however, a new law presents the PLCB with additional or different duties and responsibilities, we would adapt accordingly.”

The bill comes less than a week after Gov. Tom Wolf announced his support for legalized recreational marijuana.

It faces an uphill climb. The House Republican Caucus issued a statement saying it was “disappointed and frustrated” by Wolf’s announcement

Marijuana is still illegal federally. State House Republicans said they were concerned legalizing it would create legal issues, interfere with the state’s fledgling medical marijuana program, and put young people at risk.

“Our caucus has no plans or interest in legalizing recreational marijuana,” the statement said.

Republicans have the majority in the House, with 110 representatives to Democrats’ 93.

It’s unclear what the relationship would be between the state-owned recreational marijuana stores and the dozens of existing medical marijuana dispensaries.

Nearly 4.7 million medical marijuana products have been sold to about 125,000 registered patients.

The wide-ranging bill covers many topics, and leaves some questions unanswered.

Here’s some of the highlights:

• Those age 21 and over would be allowed to possess and consume marijuana. They could share small amounts of marijuana with others, but not sell it.

• Anyone convicted of possession of marijuana would have their criminal record expunged. If they’re in jail for the possession of marijuana, they would be released.

• Employers would no longer be able fire or discipline employees if a drug test shows the “presence of a nonintoxicating level of cannabis.”

• The PLCB would have the power to “buy, import or have in its possession for sale” marijuana grown and processed by third-party facilities. It “shall buy cannabis and cannabis products at the lowest price and in the greatest variety reasonably obtainable.”

• The PLCB will issue licenses to marijuana growers and processors, which will sell marijuana products to state-owned retail shops. These facilities will be taxed.

• The board will create the regulations for this licensing process. It is unclear whether it will have any relationship to the state’s existing grower/processors, which are overseen by the Department of Health.

• Local municipalities may establish their own regulations limiting the number and location of marijuana growers and processors.

• The bill allows for growing marijuana for personal use: possession of up to six cannabis plants, including three mature, flowering plants. The plants must be kept in an “enclosed, locked space.”

• Driving under the influence of marijuana would remain illegal.

• The regulations in the bill would not apply to hemp, a variety of cannabis with very low amounts of the psychoactive substance THC.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: News | Pennsylvania | Top Stories
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