The top fiscal officer in Pennsylvania is calling on his state to join the growing number of others that are legalizing marijuana
“The regulation and taxation of the marijuana train has rumbled out of the station, and it is time to add a stop in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Eugene DePasquale, the state’s auditor general, said in a press conference on Monday.
DePasquale’s department is chiefly responsible for performing financial audits of government agencies across the commonwealth, so he knows a thing or two about the state’s revenue needs.
“Other states are already taking advantage of the opportunity for massive job creation and savings from reduced arrests and criminal prosecutions,” he said. “In addition, it would generate hundreds of millions of dollars each year that could help tackle Pennsylvania’s budget problems.”
But the fiscal officer said that there are more reasons to legalize marijuana than just dollars and cents.
“There is also social impact, specifically related to arrests, and the personal, emotional, and financial devastation that may result from such arrests,” he said.
The push comes at a critical time for the marijuana policy reform movement, as the Trump administration has in a recent weeks sent signals that it is considering reversing the president’s campaign pledges to respect state cannabis laws.
Last week, for example, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that marijuana use is linked to violence.
“It’s one of the craziest things I’ve heard coming out of the mouth of an AG,” DePasquale said.
On Twitter, he added, “If we’re gonna operate our state in fear of a man like @jeffsessions, we’ve already lost.”
Gov. Tom Wolf, also a Democrat, signed a bill legalizing medical cannabis into law last year. He has also endorsed decriminalizing marijuana possession but has stopped short of calling for full legalization, saying that the state should “learn from the experience of other states” that have ended prohibition before deciding what to do.
“I welcome discussion on this issue with the legislature,” the governor recently tweeted.
In recent years a number of Pennsylvania communities — including the state’s two largest cities, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh — have enacted local ordinances to decriminalize marijuana possession.
A bill to legalize marijuana is currently pending in the Pennsylvania Senate, though it hasn’t yet been scheduled for a hearing or vote. Sen. Daylin Leach (D), the bill’s sponsor, didn’t immediately respond to MassRoots’s request for comment on how the auditor general’s new endorsement might give a boost to the legislation.
DePasquale, who was first elected in 2012 and reelected to a second four-year term last November, said he worries that if Pennsylvania lawmakers don’t act soon, the state “could be stuck in a position of being the only state in our region to NOT regulate & tax marijuana.”