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Pa. Auditor General: Legalizing Marijuana Would Create Jobs, Generate Tax Revenue

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Next year, medical marijuana will be available for purchase across Pennsylvania. So, is legalizing recreational pot soon to follow?

State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale thinks it's time the Commonwealth join other states that have.

"The regulation and taxation of marijuana train has rumbled out of the station across the United States. The question is whether Pennsylvania is going to miss its stop," DePasquale said.

Proponents of legalization say it makes sense on two fronts. First, they say decriminalize pot will unburden police and the court of what they see as unnecessary prosecutions.

"Why are we wasting their time on something that now is medically available in 28 states, is legal is seven states, it's legal in the District of Columbia, and it has been proven to not have any of the collateral harms associated with it that we have with cocaine, heroin, or even alcohol," said lawyer Patrick Nightingale.

DePasquale says the legalized sale will create jobs and generate substantial tax revenues; and, if quickly passed, would put a major dent in the state's $2 to $3 billion budget deficit.

"We'll have $200 million of found money that does not harm one other state program or one other state tax," DePasquale said.

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But resistance to the idea is likely to be formidable.

Although no longer viewed as a so-called gateway drug to heroin and cocaine, addiction specialist like Dr. Peter Luongo says much is still not known about the short and long-term effects of marijuana. For instance, how much pot could a person smoke and still operate a vehicle safely.

"There's a lot that hasn't been looked at yet. I don't know what a safe level is. I don't know for whom. And I have to say that's troubling," said Dr. Luongo.

Even proponents say pot probably won't become legal here in the near future.

"With our more conservative legislature that is controlled by the Republicans, I don't think there is going to be much enthusiasm for contemplating full legalization," said Nightingale.

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