Editorial: Take it slow on marijuana legalization
“Legalize marijuana” is not a new refrain in Pennsylvania.
You could hear it on college campuses. You could hear it from libertarian groups.
It came more and more as other states made lighting up permissible.
The old song has been sampled often as medical marijuana has been OK’d and the derivative CBD oil is appearing in everything from oils to lotions to candy.
So it is no surprise that after months of town halls and talks, Gov. Tom Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman are calling for Pennsylvania to take a step toward legalization.
That step is decriminalization.
Confused? Not surprising. What exactly is the difference between saying something isn’t a crime and saying that it’s legal?
Decriminalization is something that has been happening anyway. Municipalities including the City of Pittsburgh have already started to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Doing it statewide would mean that the joint that wouldn’t get someone arrested in Pittsburgh or Allentown also wouldn’t in other towns along the drive between. It means a uniformity of treatment and a standardization of penalty — or lack thereof.
That makes sense. With enough Pennsylvanians supporting it — and more than 44,000 have made their voices heard during Fetterman’s listening tour and online — and with so many areas already decriminalizing, the move has merit.
It also serves as a gentle slope to wade in from medical legalization rather than a full-on cannonball splash into recreational use.
While Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has estimated legalization could mean $1.6 billion for the economy and $581 million in state revenue, a rush toward those windfalls could cause more problems than the money can cure.
Yes, medical sales have been enthusiastic, but those sales have been legal for less than two years. If legalization is the path Pennsylvania wants to take, it should be done with care.
Maybe recreational marijuana would be good for the state. Maybe it would be good for the people and the economy and the government’s bottom line. That’s all possible.
But doing it right is more important than doing it fast. Decriminalization is a good, moderate next step.