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Marijuana Legalization Proposed In Pa. State House

A marijuana plant is grown under lights at the Boulder County Caregivers in Boulder, Colo. AP photo

Several Democrats in the state House of Representatives are backing legislation to legalize marijuana and sell through the existing state store system.

House Bill 1180 was introduced Thursday by Rep. David Delloso, D-Ridley Park, and referred to the House Liquor Control Committee. In addition to Delloso, 12 Democrats have signed on as co-sponsors of the legislation.

Delloso proposes to have marijuana be legal for those over the age of 21. Those buying marijuana would have to show proof of age. It would still remain a crime to sell marijuana to those under the of 21 and to drive under the influence of marijuana.

“In 2017, almost 21,000 adults in Pennsylvania were arrested for low-level cannabis possession charges,” Delloso wrote in his legislative memorandum. “The prosecution of these individuals cost Pennsylvania taxpayers $46 million. Furthermore, although African Americans use cannabis at a similar rate to white Americans, African Americans are almost four times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession. According to the auditor general of Pennsylvania, legalizing adult use cannabis in Pennsylvania could create a $1.66 billion industry that would create more than 18,000 good jobs and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue every year.”

HOW THE PROPOSAL WORKS

Unlike New York state, which created new state boards to manage its legalized marijuana program, Delloso proposes to have the adult-use marijuana program run through the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. The PCLB would have the power to buy, import or have in its possession for sale marijuana and marijuana products with approval of the state Treasurer’s Office. It would set prices for marijuana and related products, and determine which municipalities would host retail cannabis stores and where in those municipalities stores would be located.

There would be a $5,000 application fee to operate a cannabis establishment and a $700 yearly license renewal charge. Delloso is proposing a 10% tax on marijuana sales by cannabis cultivation facilities unless the cultivation facility is partnering with a Pennsylvania farm that is growing marijuana for the facility. Marijuana users would pay a 19% tax.

Facilities would be licensed to purchase marijuana, manufacture, prepare and package marijuana products and then sell marijuana to other marijuana manufacturing companies and retail marijuana stores.

“However, permitting private companies to sell cannabis in Pennsylvania could allow large corporations to take over the cannabis industry, putting profits before the well-being of our communities,” Delloso wrote. “For these reasons, my legislation will legalize adult use cannabis through the current state store system in order to ensure the safety and integrity of cannabis sales in Pennsylvania.”

Delloso’s proposed legislation would allow the possession, growing, processing or transportation of no more than six marijuana plants in a private home. Private growers would have to grow marijuana in an enclosed, locked space that is not open to the public and could not sell their marijuana, though home growers could transfer an ounce or less of marijuana without receiving any compensation to anyone who is over the age of 21.

The legislation also does not allow open consumption of marijuana in public or in a way that endangers others.

Local governments would be allowed to enact an ordinance or regulation specifying which municipal departments would be responsible for processing applications for cannabis establishments and would be allowed to regulate the time, place and number of marijuana establishments, procedures to issue, suspend and revoke a license issued by a locality and local operating, licensing and application fees.

RECORDS EXPUNGEMENT

Delloso’s proposal also includes an expungement process for marijuana arrests. The Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts would be given six months to transmit all records of a marijuana arrest or conviction for expungement to the Pennsylvania State Police, which would review the records and send a final list of arrests or convictions that should be expunged. A Court of Common Pleas that receives an expungement order for a person currently in jail would be ordered to immediately release the inmate. Anyone whose driver’s license is suspended or revoked as a result of a conviction that has been expunged would be immediately reinstated once their conviction is dismissed.

“Additionally, this legislation would also expunge low level cannabis convictions and permit individuals to grow up to six plants,” Delloso wrote. “This would in turn increase the amount of law enforcement resources and reduce the racial disparity in the criminal justice system related to cannabis convictions.”

WORKPLACE LIMITS

No employer would be required to permit or accommodate the use of marijuana in the workplace. The mere presence of a nonintoxicating level of marijuana on an employee’s blood test would not be allowed to result in an employee’s firing or other discipline. Employers would be able to adopt and enforce their own policies restricting marijuana use by employees in the workplace.

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