Pennsylvania is currently facing a $3 billion budget shortfall. And while Philadelphia routinely shutters the doors of their public schools and statewide services are critically underfunded, the state’s auditor general has an idea to help get Pennsylvania’s checkbook out of the red - and it all starts with legalizing recreational marijuana use.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Pennsylvania auditor general Eugene Depasquale held a press conference yesterday, during which he told journalists that legalizing and taxing marijuana, like eight U.S. states have already done, would bring in an estimated $200 million in tax revenue.
"I wasn't necessarily convinced Pennsylvania should be the first, but now that we have actual results and data from other states, the evidence is clear that this can be both good socially and fiscally," DePasquale said. Depasquale cited Washington’s 2016 $220 million marijuana tax profits, and the $129 million and $65.4 million tax bumps in Colorado and Oregon respectively.
But in Pennsylvania, where the limited medical marijuana program that was authorized in 2016 won’t go into effect until 2018, some state lawmakers are still stuck in past, and don’t quite see it the same way DePasquale does.
“While we’re appreciative of the auditor general’s multiple policy thoughts, as Pennsylvania and the nation is facing a serious drug problem, I’m not sure that legalizing a Schedule I narcotic is the best response.” House Republican spokesman Steve Miskin said.
And while Miskin’s response is not based in science or economics, he does admit that Pennsylvania voters don’t always agree with him.
“More than a decade ago, people might not have expected that gay couples would now be allowed to marry and that medical marijuana would have been overwhelmingly approved.”
Hopefully Pennsylvania’s legislators can come to their senses and do what’s best for the state’s budget and residents. Until then, it appears that the Keystone State’s budget issues will continue to worsen.