Legalized marijuana is gaining support in states across the United States, and Pennsylvania is joining the ranks of the states on the fence.

PA State Rep. Jake Wheatley introduced legislation to legalize recreational use of marijuana for those age 21 and over.

The bill also proposes relief for those who have records related to marijuana possession. The measures would include expunging records and reinstating licenses that were revoked due to crimes that involved cannabis. This will take some pressure off of the legal system and facilities where criminals are incarcerated, allowing more focus on other crimes.

Legalization supporters note the money that recreational marijuana brings in could be helpful in a variety of ways, even to the overburdened judicial system.

Potential revenue through taxes could be as high as $500 million each year, according to estimates. Proposed use of this windfall would include improvements to the state’s Department of Corrections. These funds could be used to work on expunging records. They would also be helpful in creating effective re-entry programs and mentoring efforts within the state. The money would also be helpful for workforce development efforts, according to Wheatley.

A rally held Sept. 24 in Harrisburg supported legalization of the drug, with supporters on site focusing on the monetary benefits of such a move. Gov. Tom Wolf is concerned with how things go with the medical marijuana use measure currently in place. He does say that possession of small amounts of marijuana should not be a punishable crime.

The medical marijuana legalization appears to have met with overwhelming support. In Pittsburgh, a marijuana education center is slated to open in coming months. Meanwhile, dry leaf medical marijuana has become available at PA dispensaries, which are opening in various locations within the state. The availability of dry leaf form, rather than pills and ointments, is a step in the right direction.

However, smoking marijuana is still illegal in the state, meaning the dry leaf variety must be consumed through a vaporizer. Still, progress is being made. In the other states where recreational use has been legalized, similar responses and success were noted with the medical marijuana program first.

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