A Pennsylvania lawmaker introduced a bill on Wednesday that would legalize the recreational sale of cannabis and make state-run liquor stores the only authorized retailer of marijuana products. The measure, House Bill 1899, was introduced by Democratic state Rep. David Delloso of Delaware County.
Delloso said in a statement that restricting sales of cannabis to the state’s network of liquor stores would ensure that local businesses benefit the most from legalization.
“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. “They aren’t going to provide family sustaining jobs, and all the profits are going to leave Pennsylvania.”
Under the bill, adults 21 and older would be permitted to legally possess and consume marijuana. Adults would be allowed to give away small amounts of cannabis, but sales would be restricted to businesses licensed by the state. The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) would be responsible for licensing businesses to produce marijuana for sale at the state-controlled stores.
The measure also contains provisions that would expunge the records of those convicted of marijuana possession and inmates currently incarcerated for such offenses would be released. Also, employers would be prohibited from firing or disciplining employees if a drug screening indicates the “presence of a nonintoxicating level of cannabis.”
Legalizing recreational cannabis would be an economic boon for the state, according to Pennsylvania’s Budget and Policy Center, which estimates that doing so would create 18,000 jobs and result in $581 million in tax revenues to the state each year.
“It is time for us to not just have a conversation but sit down and really look at details on how we can do this in Pennsylvania understanding that the support is there, the revenue will be there for us and we could do a lot of good things with those resources,” said Rep. Jordan Harris of Philadelphia County, also a Democrat.
Republicans Not On Board
House Republican lawmakers have expressed reservations about the bill, issuing a statement that the move would conflict with federal law and create legal issues. They also fear that legalizing recreational cannabis would interfere with the state’s medical marijuana businesses and pose a risk of harm to young people.
“Our caucus has no plans or interest in legalizing recreational marijuana,” the statement said.
Shawn Kelly, the press secretary for the Liquor Control Board, said that the agency was up to the task of becoming the state’s only cannabis retailer if the bill succeeds.
“As an administrative agency tasked under current law with responsible, effective, and efficient regulation of the sale of wine and spirits in Pennsylvania, we generally leave policy discussions regarding the future of this agency up to the General Assembly and the Governor,” Kelly said. “If, however, a new law presents the PLCB with additional or different duties and responsibilities, we would adapt accordingly.”
House Bill 1899 has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee for its consideration.