The tax and fee revenue in Colorado last year was $135 million
A Philadelphia lawmaker on Thursday began circulating a memo seeking co-sponsorship for a future proposal to allow recreational marijuana for adult use to be sold only in state liquor stores.
Four states — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington — and the District of Columbia have legalized the sale of marijuana. Several other states are exploring that option.
Legalizing marijuana in Pennsylvania could help balance the state’s budget, state Rep. Jordan Harris (D-Philadelphia) said in his memo. “I believe my legislation could provide the much-needed tax revenue to help with our funding issues.”
The state’s structural budget deficit has been pegged at roughly $2 billion.
“This is the perfect time to actually talk about this,” Harris said, citing this week’s liquor-reform bill that will give grocery stores, among others, the option to sell wine. “This replaces (lost) wine sales in state stores.”
Harris cited marijuana tax and fee revenue of $135 million in Colorado last year. Washington generated close to $70 million, he said. “Keep in mind that Colorado’s population is around half the size of Pennsylvania’s population, meaning the commonwealth should receive much more than Colorado’s $135 million in tax revenue.“
Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana law took effect on May 17. The state Department of Health has said it could take up to two years to have a medical marijuana program up and running.
Is it too soon to be thinking about more green? No, Harris said, calling medical marijuana an important first step to provide relief and medicine to those who are in pain. Pennsylvania lawmakers have to tap into this growing industry, he said.
“This is something we have to take a serious look at,” Harris said, also citing benefits from growth in industrial hemp.
There have been other proposals over the last year in Pennsylvania to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana and regulate weed much like alcohol.
“We could fund schools, fix roads and bridges,” he added. “It could be a benefit for farmers in rural Pennsylvania who could not become growers of marijuana. It could get people out of jails for small possession and stop the spending on enforcement.”
Savings also could trickle down to counties, Harris said. “It’s not going to happen overnight. It definitely needs to be a part of the conversation.”