Source: By Tony Rhodin | The Express-Times February 27 2015
Two Pennsylvania state senators have offered a bill that would legalize the possession and recreational use of of marijuana in the Keystone State.
While the Pennsylvania General Assembly is considering doing away with state liquor stores and weighing the legalization of medical marijuana, Sens. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery/Delaware, and Larry Farnese, D-Philadelphia, would like the state’s Liquor Control Board to take on the legal sale of recreational marijuana, according to a bill submitted Wednesday.
The effort is “in the interest of the efficient use of law enforcement resources, enhancing revenue for public purposes and individual freedom,” the senators wrote in the introduction of the “Regulate Marijuana Act.”
But first things first, Leach said Friday.
“I imagine the focus will be on medical this year,” Leach said. “It’s sort of an easier lift for some people, and in some peoples’ lives, more urgent. There are sick people who need their medicine.”
If the recreational use Bill 528, which was sent to the Senate’s Law and Justice Committee, were to become law, those 21 and older would be allowed to buy or grow marijuana for personal use, the proposed legislation says.
Purchasers would have to show proof of age, it would be illegal to sell to those underage and driving under the influence would remain a crime, the bill says.
“Legitimate, state-operated stores, and not criminal actors, will conduct sales of marijuana,” the bill says.
Marijuana paraphernalia would also be legalized under the legislation.
“Possessing, growing, processing or transporting not more than six marijuana plants, with not more than three being mature, flowering plants” would be legal.
There’s aren’t any limits to how much processed marijuana a person could possess, because it would be a legal product, Leach said.
Personal processing of marijuana would be legal if done in a “locked space and is not conducted openly or publicly.”
“Transfer” of an ounce or less to another person would be legal as long as it’s free.
“Marijuana cultivation facilities” would be licensed by the state.
The Liquor Control Board would oversee pricing, which must be “proportional with prices paid by the board to its suppliers and reflect any advantage obtained through volume purchases by the board,” the bill says.
The legislation, which was also offered last year, places a deadline of July 1, 2016, for the board to adopt regulations so marijuana could be sold in the state. The bill would go into effect within 30 days of passage.
The General Assembly would create an excise tax on marijuana sold by a cultivation facility or a manufacturing facility to a store.
Businesses and other entities could prohibit use on their premises, the bill says.
“The main takeaway is it’s an idea we need to discuss,” Leach’s spokesman Steve Hoenstine said Friday morning. “… First of all, it’s starting point. Almost all of it is subject to compromise.”
Proponent says bill won’t slow medical marijuana effort
Steven Auerbach, who is a regulated substances lawyer from Montgomery County and executive director of the Cannabis Growers Association of Pennsylvania, said he doesn’t see the personal use bill taking away from the current effort to pass medical marijuana.
“If anything, it gives opponents of medical marijuana a departure point” to tell constituents that they will allow the very ill to receive marijuana but will fight to stop recreational usage, Auerbach said.
He said the bill also “bookmarks the right to push forward (the recreational use bill) within the session” if the political landscape changes.
“It might not be something that is actively pushed forward now,” he said.
Leach said he doesn’t see a direct connection between the two bills since other states that legalized recreational use did it through referendum, something not available in Pennsylvania.
“It’s two separate issues,” Leach said. “One has never followed the other” successfully in a legislative process.