Area lawmakers are not in favor of Gov. Tom Wolf’s pitch to legalize recreational marijuana and funnel proceeds to small business grant funding.
“The governor’s call to legalize recreational marijuana shows a complete disconnect with Pennsylvania families and sends the wrong message to our youth. It only serves to promote vaping, smoking and getting high, and is counter to our efforts to help young people stay healthy and safe during the pandemic,” state Rep. Tarah Toohil, R-116, Butler Twp., said in a statement. “There are children out there who are in a terrible spot right now, living in unsafe homes and isolated from school structures. Many families are also struggling with joblessness, drug abuse and increased domestic violence.”
Toohil said the timing shows a disregard for the consequences.
“I get it, that legalizing marijuana would be a revenue source, but it should not be at the expense of Pennsylvania’s children,” she said.
Todd Eachus, a Democrat hoping to regain his seat representing the 116th Legislative District, called Wolf’s proposal “foolhardy.”
“I’m not happy with the governor proposing this now,” he said. “I think it’s a stupid idea to bring this up now when we are in the middle of an $8 to $9 billion deficit.”
Eachus started Hemp Health Labs in Montgomery County, which distributes products with hemp and CBD (cannabidiol) oil, according to his page at Linkedin.com. He believes that the hemp and cannabis industry has great potential, noting that licensed growers are farming hemp in Luzerne and Schuylkill counties.
He believes the hemp industry could positively impact the area by creating job opportunities. Many universities are studying the plant for its benefits. He doesn’t think rushing into legalizing marijuana for recreational use is the answer.
“It has been prohibited for 70 years, so there is so little we don’t know about the benefits of it,” he said.
Eachus stressed that the massive deficit was created by a pandemic and that lawmakers should not use politics as a way to fix it.
Rep. Jerry Knowles, R-124, Rush Twp., said Wolf’s plan isn’t the right policy move.
“Bottom line: The governor will continue to overspend and use pot to feed his spending addiction,” he said. “It will once again require you, the taxpayer, to bail him out. …
“Initially, the governor was quoted in numerous publications as saying he was not in favor of legalizing recreational pot. Why does he want to legalize it now? It is simple. He enjoys taking money that doesn’t belong to him.”
Knowles also worries that legalizing marijuana could cause problems.
“My experience as a former police officer has shown that legalizing recreational pot will increase teen use and lead to more medical emergencies, including traffic deaths if motorists are driving while high,” he said. “The amount of revenue generated from legalization falls far short of the cost.”
Sen. David Argall, R-29, Rush Twp., also doesn’t support the legalization of recreational marijuana.
“If the governor really cares about Pennsylvania’s struggling economy, he should stop vetoing bills passed by a bipartisan majority in our House and Senate to begin to reopen our economy, especially in those areas that have not been hit hard by COVID 19,” Argall said.
State Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-119, Newport Twp., did not return a call for comment.