Legalizing recreational marijuana gets first GOP sponsor in Pennsylvania

This Aug. 22, 2019 photo shows medical marijuana plants being grown before flowering during a media tour of the Curaleaf medical cannabis cultivation and processing facility in Ravena, N.Y. (Hans Pennink/AP Photo)

This Aug. 22, 2019 photo shows medical marijuana plants being grown before flowering during a media tour of the Curaleaf medical cannabis cultivation and processing facility in Ravena, N.Y. (Hans Pennink/AP Photo)

Forthcoming legislation to legalize marijuana in Pennsylvania, announced Wednesday, is believed to be the first with a Republican as an author, although it likely faces the same uphill fight against opposition from the state Legislature’s GOP majorities.

Sens. Daniel Laughlin, R-Erie, and Sharif Street, D-Philadelphia, outlined the proposal in a memo distributed to fellow senators.

Laughlin and Street say regulating it can improve public safety and better prevent minors from getting it, while raising money for the state treasury, boosting the economy, and ending the disproportionate enforcement of marijuana laws against Black and Latino people.

Gov. Tom Wolf, a second-term Democrat, supports the legalization of marijuana, changing his position in 2019.

Fifteen states have legalized marijuana for adult recreational use, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In neighboring New Jersey, voters last fall overwhelmingly approved a ballot question to legalize it, and Gov. Phil Murphy on Monday signed legislation to enact a recreational marijuana marketplace.

Jeff Reidy, executive director of the Lehigh Valley chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said the forthcoming bill is the first legitimate marijuana legalization bill sponsored or authored by a Republican lawmaker in Pennsylvania.

For years, Democrats have introduced bills to legalize marijuana, at least as far back as 1983, when Street’s uncle, then-Sen. Milton Street, introduced one, Reidy said.

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