Editorials from around Pennsylvania
TURNING LOSS INTO GAIN WITH MARIJUANA POLICY, March 8
According to a piece that appeared a couple of years back in The (Philadelphia) Inquirer, authorities in Pennsylvania were arresting about 21,000 people annually for possession of marijuana, and another 5,500 for growing pot.
The column by Chris Goldstein, an editor at Freedom Leaf magazine, cited a report from the RAND Corp. think tank that estimated it costs $1,266 for the handling of every basic misdemeanor marijuana arrest.
That number jumps to $8,600 for each prosecution of someone accused of growing the plant. Based on those figures, it estimated that Pennsylvania was spending more than $73 million a year on those cases, and that doesn’t include the costs of jail, prison and supervision of those sentenced to probation.
But what if cash-strapped Pennsylvania could not only wipe out those costs, but also reap millions from marijuana?
State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale said the state could earn $200 million a year by permitting recreational marijuana use and taxing it.
At a news conference earlier this week, the auditor general noted that Colorado, with less than half the population of our state, is pulling in about $129 million annually through taxes on the cultivation and purchase of marijuana. In Washington state, that figure is $220 million.
DePasquale isn’t foolish enough to think such a move would find easy sledding in our Legislature, which has never had a reputation for being particularly visionary — or productive, for that matter.
“It is an entirely fair and appropriate question to say, can this ever happen in Pennsylvania?” he said.
In fact, it took years of pleas and protests from advocates before the Legislature finally approved use of medical marijuana in 2016, and that option won’t even be available to those who need it until next year, if all goes well.
“We don’t even