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State Rep. Wheatley Introduces Bill To Legalize Recreational Marijuana

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Nine states and the District of Columbia have done it and State Rep. Jake Wheatley says it's time in Pennsylvania for "full adult recreational use of cannabis."

Wheatley introduced a bill to do just that on Monday. The Pennsylvania Auditor General has previously estimated the state could gain $600 million annually from legalization.

Patrick Nightingale is with the Pittsburgh chapter of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

"[Right now] this money just disappears into the black market and goes right into the pockets of drug dealers," Nightingale said.

It's money State Rep. Ed Gainey says the state could "utilize to help improve education and health and human services, to make sure we're doing what's right for the people of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania."

legalize pot
(Photo Credit: KDKA Photojournalist Steve Willing)

Those at the support rally say 20,000 Pennsylvanians are prosecuted annually for misdemeanor marijuana possession.

"Right here in the City of Pittsburgh, people of color are five times as likely to be charged with a minor possession offense than their white counterparts despite similar rates of usage. This is absolutely ridiculous," Nightingale said.

So along with the recreational cannabis bill, there is a companion measure to retroactively decriminalize a certain level of personal use. Rep. Wheatley says once that level is established, they'll apply it to those imprisoned for possession.

"If your conviction was a part of that weight or less, it will be automatically expunged," Wheatley said.

Comments from the streets of Pittsburgh...

"No one's dying off marijuana and it's helping more people than anything."

"If it would alleviate the opioid problem, then maybe."

"If the people really need it, yeah."

"I think it's an issue that still needs further exploration."

"Why not? I don't see what harm it could possibly do."

Rep. Wheatley has alerted the Speaker of the House Mike Turzai that the bill is on the way.

"He didn't believe we have enough session days, but I think anything can be done," Wheatley said.

And if it doesn't work out in this session he says he'll introduce it again next session.

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