Auditor General looks to bring recreational marijuana to Pennsylvania to help with budget shortfall

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YORK COUNTY, Pa. -- According to Pennsylvania’s Auditor General, the marijuana industry is expected to bring in $20 billion in revenue and offer 280,000 jobs in the next decade.

He wants to bring the recreational marijuana industry right here to Pennsylvania all in an effort to help tackle the budget deficit.

Some medical marijuana experts are on board with the proposal to legalize and tax recreational marijuana. However, one treatment center finds Auditor General DePasquale’s plan a little risky because it says it could promote what it calls a gateway to opioid addiction.

"The one area that we can do this budget that will bring revenue and cut costs at the exact same time and that would be the regulation and taxation of marijuana,” said Auditor General Depasquale.

His proposal sits well with two members of the medical marijuana field.

"This is, it's common sense. It could be modeled after several states that have implemented programs,” said Christina Kauffman with Five Leaf Remedies Inc.

Christina Kauffman and Rebecca Countess are working on an application for a medical marijuana growing and processing facility in York County.

They say they’re equally excited about the Auditor General’s proposal.

"Taxation is great, and I really like the idea of decriminalizing because really, I feel like our poorest population is in prison, and it has unfairly hit our minorities. They're the people that seem to get incarcerated the most,” said Countess.

Auditor General DePasquale wants to use the recreational marijuana model that states like Colorado and Washington already have in place to bring jobs and revenue here to Pennsylvania. He says we could miss out if we don't.

“New jersey is going to be next. My guess is New York will be next, as will Maryland which means Pennsylvania in a position where, not only are we missing out the business opportunities and the revenue side of it, but we’re going to look like an outlier to the entire region,” said DePasquale.

One recovery facility finds the proposal contradictory.

"With the opiate crisis that's going on, where you know, Pennsylvania has moved from 9th in the nation to I believe it's 6th in nation for opioid related deaths. What they don't understand is marijuana and opiates are both drugs which are just a symptom of the disease of addiction,” said Kristin Varner with Rase Projects in York.

According to Varner, marijuana use can lead to addiction for some individuals.

"We’re saying on one hand that we need to fight the opiate crisis, and on the other hand, let’s legalize marijuana, to me that’s ridiculous and it’s a gateway which will lead to other drug use."

Others say the regulation of the drug would make it safer.

"There's a lethal dose of water, of glucose, of everything, and there's not a lethal dose of marijuana,” said Countess.

According to the Auditor General, the legalization and regulation of it would put Pennsylvania ahead of something he sees as already making its way across the country.

According to DePasquale, benefits of recreational marijuana go beyond a budgetary standpoint. He says Pennsylvania has already benefitted by some cities decriminalizing marijuana like in Philadelphia, where marijuana arrests went from 2,843 in 2014 to 969 in 2016.

If Pennsylvania hopped on board now, we would be the 9th state to regulate and legalize recreational marijuana.