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PA state senators introduce legislation to legalize marijuana

Digital Brief: July 8, 2023 (AM)
Digital Brief: July 8, 2023 (AM) 02:46

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Political efforts to legalize marijuana in the Keystone State continue after a previous bill failed. 

Five state senators, including three from our region, have introduced a bipartisan bill to legalize the drug for recreational, adult use.

Senate Bill 846 was introduced on July 6 by Sens. Dan Laughlin (R- Erie County), Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia), Timothy Kearney (D-Delaware County), Wayne Fontana (D-Allegheny County) and John Kane (D-Chester and Delaware Counties).

This recent push comes about two months after Laughlin and Street announced their plans to partner on introducing new legislation for marijuana legalization.

The bill would create a Cannabis Regulatory Control Board that would take over some oversight powers from the Department of Health. The board would handle permits and applications from dispensaries that want to sell in the state.

The legislation outlines the following goals:

  • Legalization of recreational marijuana use for Pennsylvanians 21 and older under the possession limits of 30 grams of cannabis flower, no more than 1,000 milligrams of THC contained in cannabis-infused edible or nonedible products and five grams of cannabis concentrate. 
  • Ban the marketing of marijuana products to children and require labeling that the products are not for children.
  • Direct the Pennsylvania State Police and Administrative Office of the Courts to arrange for expunging nonviolent marijuana offenses.
  • Grant licenses to sell marijuana to social and economic equity applicants. 
  • Allows only medical marijuana patients to grow up to five plants for personal therapeutic use. 
  • Establishment of an 8% sales tax on marijuana products. Retailers would be required to pay an additional 5% excise tax on cannabis sales.

Sponsors say the bill is an updated version of a previous bill to legalize marijuana, Senate Bill 473, which failed in the 2021-22 session.

The Pennsylvania Independent Fiscal Office projected in 2021 that legal adult use marijuana could generate $400 million to $1 billion in new tax revenue for the commonwealth, according to Laughlin's website.

"With neighboring states New Jersey and New York implementing adult use, we have a duty to Pennsylvania taxpayers to legalize adult-use marijuana to avoid losing out on hundreds of millions of dollars of new tax revenue and thousands of new jobs," Laughlin said in a statement

"We have a unique and singular opportunity to correct decades of mass incarceration, disproportionate enforcement against marginalized communities, the criminalization of personal choice and the perpetuation of violence, which all materialized from the failed war on drugs," Street said in a statement. "Legalizing the adult use of cannabis will help us fully and equitably fund education, lower property taxes, and address a variety of community needs throughout Pennsylvania."

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