Hearing on Adult-Use Cannabis Reflects on Law Enforcement Challenges

HARRISBURG – The Senate Law and Justice Committee on Monday heard from state and local officials, law enforcement and medical marijuana dispensaries about the impact regulating adult-use cannabis could have in Pennsylvania.

Chairman Mike Regan (R-31) convened the hearing to delve deeper into the public safety issues surrounding adult-use laws and noted that, in recent years, many law enforcement officials have opted against prosecuting small possession amounts in favor of tackling violent crimes and large-scale drug operations.

“Obviously, marijuana is not new,” Sen. Regan said. “It is already out there. It is already being used by millions of people – young and old, far and wide. But in doing so, they are putting billions of dollars into the hands of violent criminals, and they are risking consuming a product that could be laced with substances such as fentanyl, crack cocaine, embalming fluid or even mold, fungus, or other unknown pathogens.”

He reiterated that without legalization and regulation, the black market for marijuana will only proliferate.

“That is why my focus is on bringing down illegal drug operations, providing Pennsylvania adults with a safe product, and keeping revenue within the Commonwealth instead of it going to our neighboring states with legalized adult-use marijuana or worse – to organized criminals, gangs, and cartels,” said Sen. Regan.

The Independent Fiscal Office estimated that legalizing cannabis for adult-use could generate between $400 million and $1 billion in tax revenues the state could use to fund state police, crime prevention and after school programs for disadvantaged youth.

Regulating marijuana would not only improve quality, but also diminish the illicit market and give residents a way to legally and safely access the drug, said Philadelphia area state Rep. Amen Brown (D-190), who is working with Regan to solidify legislation on the issue.

District attorneys, meanwhile, told the committee that illegal drug sales, many of which include cannabis, are often prone to violence. They both cautioned, however, that “many issues” underly the spike in crime noted across the Commonwealth. Problems with DUI enforcement are also still a concern, as well as legalizing what’s been long suspected to be a “gateway drug.”

Medical marijuana dispensaries said regulating cannabis for widespread adult-use would help crack down on tainted products and give law enforcement a way to track bad actors.

Sen. Regan thanked the participants for their perspective on the issue and said the next committee hearing will focus on laws other states have enacted to permit adult-use.

“I believe my colleague Representative Amen Brown said it best recently that it is important for us to work with law enforcement on the issue of legalization to make sure we are not in conflict and to ensure the safety of officers and our communities,” Sen. Regan said. 

CONTACT: Bruce McLanahan, 717-787-8524

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