In attempting to convince legislators and other high-ranking state officials to legalize cannabis, proponents often tout an increase in tax revenue as one of the benefits of such a program. And states that legalized marijuana in the last several years have seen tax revenues exceed initial estimates. In Pennsylvania, this refrain is one of the Commonwealth’s “row officers.”
At a press conference on March 6, Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale suggested that the state should, “strongly consider regulating and taxing marijuana to benefit from a booming industry expected to be worth $20 billion and employ more than 280,000 in the next decade.” In support of this statement, DePasquale suggested that Pennsylvania would experience job creation, a reduction law enforcement resources and arrests related to drugs, and an increase in state tax revenue.
While Pennsylvania is in the early stages of implementing its Medical Marijuana Program, DePasquale’s statement asked legislators and other state officials to examine the possibility of legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes (without explicitly using the word “recreational”). As Auditor General, DePasquale is not part of the legislative branch, but the state’s chief fiscal officer, responsible for auditing state agencies and ensuring they responsibly use state funds.
It will be interesting to follow whether members of the Pennsylvania legislature heed his call and examine this policy. However, it is more likely that legislators will adopt a position like that suggested by PA House Republican spokesman Stephen A. Miskin and reserve judgment until the state fully implements its Medical Marijuana Program. (“We don’t even have the medical cannabis program up and running yet, so it’s clearly a little premature to jump to the next step.”). Regardless, stakeholders in the industry will continue to watch for signs of increased support for recreational marijuana, whether from outside groups or from “inside the house.”