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Governor Josh Shapiro calls for Pennsylvania to legalize recreational marijuana

Gov. Shapiro calls for legalization of recreational marijuana
Gov. Shapiro calls for legalization of recreational marijuana 01:42

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro is calling for the legalization of recreational marijuana, but not everyone is on board with the idea.

The Commonwealth's neighboring states, except for West Virginia, have legalized cannabis. 

During his budget address, Governor Shapiro shared details of how he wants to blaze a new trail in Pennsylvania.

"It's time to catch up. I ask you to come together and send a bill to my desk a bill that legalizes marijuana," Governor Shapiro said.

The governor told KDKA-TV that legalizing cannabis would bring in $250 million in tax revenue each year.

Some groups want to see this idea go up in smoke. The Pennsylvania Family Institute's director of communications, Dan Bartkowiak, said there's a lot of talk of projected revenue, but no one's talking about the variety of costs and expenses that would come with legalizing recreational marijuana or recognizing how it could harm families.

"We have a medical program right now in Pennsylvania so folks can access marijuana in a legal way. Yet when it comes to recreational use, this is commercialization, this is high potency, 99 percent THC being advertised, marketed, increasing its accessibility and that leads to harm," Bartkowiak said.

The Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition commends the governor for joining others who believe the legalization of adult-use marijuana would create budding opportunities and deliver more than just revenue. 

The organization sent a statement to KDKA-TV that said, in part, "Governor Shapiro's leadership on this issue will deliver more than just revenue to the commonwealth. The establishment of a well-regulated adult-use cannabis market built on the experience and infrastructure of the current medical marijuana program will add thousands of jobs, reap millions of dollars in investments for Pennsylvania, and stop the revenue bleed to neighboring adult-use states."

Bartkowiak believes the stakes are just too high, especially for young people. He's worried teen marijuana use would rise.

"It's an entirely different thing to say we want to force your community to have pot shops selling 99 percent THC and flavored vapes and all these types of products that appeal to children, advertise and market that and have the state encourage more addictive use of that because they are going to make a profit off of it," Bartkowiak said.

During the budget address, Governor Shapiro also asked for legislative relief for those ever convicted of marijuana use.

"Oftentimes we think of this, we don't want to throw someone in jail for a small amount of marijuana," Bartkowiak said. 

The Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition also told KDKA-TV, "Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition looks forward to working with the Shapiro administration, key advocates in the Pennsylvania legislature, and stakeholders to craft a regulatory system that legalizes the sale of recreational cannabis through a well-regulated system that assures safe products for adult consumers, reduces the impact of the illicit market, rights the wrongs of cannabis prohibition and allows the commonwealth to quickly experience revenue."

Senate President Kim Ward told KDKA-TV that the Republican-controlled State Senate is a long way from approving legalization. Ward suggests it took years to pass medical marijuana and the issue of expanding cannabis use is not something you can make happen right away.

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