Ninety percent of Pennsylvanians agree: Time is now to legalize adult-use marijuana
When I first started talking about legalizing adult-use marijuana, I got the expected question from constituents, friends, and colleagues: How could I, as a former U.S. Marshal, support legalizing marijuana? I have reached this position after thoughtful study over the past several years, with the start being Pennsylvania’s legalization of medical marijuana in 2016 when I was a leader on the issue in the House of Representatives.
What medical marijuana has shown us is that there is a place for safe, regulated marijuana, and that it does have benefits to its users.
Unfortunately, the long-standing prohibition of marijuana has been the norm with many of us being raised to “just say no.” This makes changing minds and policy difficult. My 23 years in law enforcement, however, didn’t train me to run from difficult situations but rather towards them. It is in my nature to investigate and find the truth and to protect my fellow citizens.
That is what I have been doing and continue to do with respect to adult-use marijuana legalization.
One finding that has been clear for many years now is that prohibition and its enforcement have failed. Instead, there is seemingly a general consensus for accepting the status quo, which is unfathomable. Communities across the commonwealth have taken it upon themselves to decriminalize marijuana, which only continues to fuel the illicit market and put Pennsylvanians in harm’s way when buying and using marijuana.
Further, an estimated $325 million a month is flowing from Pennsylvania to the illicit market and bankrolling violent cartels, who are destroying our communities.
Are we as a commonwealth OK with the status quo? Are we willingly going to continue to allow criminals to reap $4 billion annually from our own family and friends for a product that is sold to anyone regardless of age, that is not tested to ensure safety, that is not taxed, and that lacks oversight?
Or are we as a commonwealth going to recognize that it is time to stop funding violence and to start looking at marijuana for what it could be — not for what it is in the harmful form being sold on the streets?
We have the opportunity to build off of our current medical marijuana program that has proven marijuana can be grown and sold responsibly in Pennsylvania and provide the estimated 2 million-plus Pennsylvanians currently using marijuana with a safe product that is not laced with dangerous drugs like fentanyl or PCP.
In the simplest of terms, our choices are between safe or unsafe; tested or untested; age controlled or available to all; and tax revenue or criminal gain.
And that is why I have come to my current belief that we must legalize adult-use marijuana, also known as cannabis — to protect our communities. A choice between the status quo and a regulated market is so obvious it is hard to imagine who disagrees.
As it turns out, very few do.
A recent poll asked 1,500 Pennsylvanians from every corner of the commonwealth a very simple question: With what you now know about current illegal cannabis in Pennsylvania, do you believe it is better to maintain the illicit market status quo or to legalize, regulate, and tax non-medical use of cannabis by adults?
Over 90% agreed that, when presented with the two genuine choices available to us, the logical course was to legalize, regulate and tax adult-use cannabis.
Ninety percent. In this day and age, that’s as close to consensus as we come.
This same poll showed the rapidly shifting views on cannabis — now a widely accepted medical treatment in 45 states. It showed the expected generational shift, but it also demonstrated the changing understanding of cannabis, as the majority of respondents viewed prescription drugs and alcohol as more dangerous than cannabis by a wide margin.
These findings speak volumes, and it is clear that the time has come to say goodbye to prohibition and the status quo, and instead, establish an adult-use marijuana policy that takes control away from violent criminals and protects Pennsylvanians from a tainted product while funding important initiatives to protect the health and safety of our communities.
— Sen. Mike Regan represents Pennsylvania’s 31st Senatorial District covering parts of Cumberland and York counties.