The State of Play in Pennsylvania’s Legalization Battle

Position statement: as many of our readers know, we do oppose efforts to introduce adult-use, recreational marijuana in the state of Pennsylvania. However, we also recognize that the escalation of the issue into a war of words serves no meaningful purpose. We must proceed in a manner that is pragmatic and that recognizes the overall direction in which the debate is headed.

The manner in which the issue has been covered by local media (including Fox 29) feeds into a generally widespread perception that eventual legalization of recreational marijuana in PA is inevitable. In those opposed, this can create feelings of despondency and despair (why continue to fight?) or an ever more indignant digging of the heels.

In truth, neither of these reactions is appropriate or helpful. Here’s what we know:

  • The Senate bill of 2016 paved the way for the sale of medical cannabis in PA, which ultimately began in the year 2018. (Penn Live)
  • Both Governor and Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania are vocal advocates of liberalization of marijuana policy.
  • Over the last six years numerous city councils have voted in favor of decriminalization. In many areas, possession is punishable by a nominal fine, including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The most recent in this long line is the borough of Carlisle. (Sentinel)

We don’t need to rehash arguments regarding the potential risks associated with adolescent drug use. Whether or not adult-use, recreational marijuana will lead to an increased availability of the drug to teens is an issue of open debate. However, the signs emerging from ‘early mover’ states like Washington suggest there is enough reason for concern. Although many risks associated with the drug are firmly established, others, such as the capacity of cannabis to cause a withdrawal syndrome, are the subject of impassioned debate.

Even though as citizens we feel compelled to voice our views in crucial moments, we also cannot deny that the tide of public opinion is increasingly receptive to legalization. The answer isn’t to declare war on an opponent. Arguments must be made in a cool and rational manner to carry credibility. We must also accept that it is beyond any individual’s capacity to make these decisions alone.

If indeed our state does embrace this move, we ought to be ready to double down in our calls for ongoing scientific research, non-partisan educational curriculums, and increased funding for adequate treatment. “Conceding defeat” simply isn’t the best way to protect the interests of the young people of our state. We believe that no matter the outcome of legislative efforts, we must be willing to use whatever mechanisms and resources we have available to continue our advocacy for the health and wellbeing of our youth.

By uniting behind a common goal and retaining our optimism, we will find a way of continuing our work toward that goal.

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