Editorial: Is the grass greener where it’s legal? | TribLIVE.com

Editorial: Is the grass greener where it’s legal?

Don Ryan | AP

Could Pennsylvania be the new Colorado?

The state has barely gotten its fledgling legalization of medical marijuana out of the nest and there are already moves to hatch recreational use, and some come from the Pittsburgh area.

Like alcohol, state Rep. Jake Wheatley, D-Hill District, thinks weed should be legal for someone over 21. You should be able to grow your own, and if you have a criminal record that stems from from something that wouldn’t be illegal under the new rules, it should get scrubbed.

Gov. Tom Wolf said in December that he wanted a “serious… look” at legalization, and Braddock’s own John Fetterman is starting his term as Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor with a swing through every Keystone county to see how people feel about the issue statewide. According to a 2017 Franklin & Marshall College survey, 60 percent are in favor.

It took 13 years for Colorado to move from medical legalization passing in 2000 to recreational use becoming law in 2014. The ball is rolling faster now, with Pennsylvania one of 33 states where medical marijuana is legal. Nine others have joined Colorado in allowing recreational use.

What is moving the needle so quickly? Aside from the popularity of the product, there is the proceeds. NBC reports legal weed generated $10.4 billion in business in 2018 and is anticipated to top $16 billion this year.

Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has pointed to a considerable share of that industry growing in the commonwealth if recreational use got the green light, with $1.7 billion in sales generating $500 million in taxes.

The Wolf administration has already made Pennsylvania a leader in research on medical marijuana and hemp. It’s unsurprising that legalization is the next step, and if there is a way to generate more revenue through legalization that might prove to be beneficial medically and socially, it seems like a good idea.

But let’s make sure we are looking beyond the bottom line when we are making decisions. Let’s look at the associated costs — both monetarily and in other ways — before going all in.

Like with gambling, Pennsylvania could rapidly move to the top of the marijuana industry. The Keystone State legalized casinos in 2004. In 14 years of growth and expansion of what gambling was permitted, Pennsylvania is now behind only Nevada in annual revenue. Colorado approved its first casinos in 1991 and isn’t even in the top 10.

We just need to make sure that the money doesn’t come with more headaches than a little medicinal herb could alleviate because the grass might not be greener on the other side of legalization.

Categories: Opinion | Editorials
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.