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HARRISBURG (TNS) — The latest push to legalize recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania is bringing two lawmakers together from opposite parties with very different backgrounds.

But Sen. Mike Regan, a Republican, and Rep. Amen Brown, a Democrat, say by teaming up on a bill to legalize marijuana, it demonstrates that the partisan divide that often hinders progress on major legislation can be overcome. And they recognize it’s going to take bipartisan support to make it happen.

On Tuesday, Brown, a Philadelphia lawmaker, began circulating a memo to his House colleagues seeking support for a proposed marijuana legalization bill that would offer some provisions for decriminalization for non-violent marijuana offenses. It also would level the playing field for individuals from marginalized communities to have opportunities to generate money and generational wealth by getting into the legal marijuana business.

“Legalizing and regulating cannabis is simply the right thing to do – ensuring that an equity lens is applied and that injustices caused by enforcement of drug laws are redressed,” Brown wrote in his memo to his House colleagues seeking their support. “It is right for my constituents. It is right for the economy. It is right for the commonwealth.”

In an interview in Regan’s Capitol office this week, the two lawmakers, who befriended each other over the summer, said they hope the different vantage points from which they come can help them find middle ground that will bring others in their respective chambers on board.

“It’s time for us to move forward in Pennsylvania,” said Regan, a former U.S. marshal who played a role in crafting the state’s medical marijuana program. “If we can take the violence out of it and we can regulate it and tax it and let police focus on the really serious crimes, I think it’s a huge step forward.”

Brown comes at this issue with an understanding of how the harsh drug laws have impacted people in his community. He said a key goal for him is to see non-violent marijuana offenders get their records expunged. Some are currently incarcerated because of marijuana offenses, while others find having an arrest on their record for pot as a barrier to moving on with their lives.

“By enforcing and continuing to enforce drug laws prohibiting possession of small amounts of cannabis, we are clogging our court dockets, overcrowding our prisons, and holding down individuals and communities in most need of support, opportunity, and investment,” his memo states. “This situation cannot stand in a fair society and I will not stand for it.”

Republican leaders in the GOP-controlled General Assembly have yet to embrace this idea. But having this first-time bipartisan, bicameral effort to legalize adult-use marijuana is music to Gov. Tom Wolf’s ears.

The Democratic governor has been pushing for the legalization of marijuana. If approved, Pennsylvania would become the 19th state in the nation to allow the recreational use of marijuana.

On Monday, the governor posted on Twitter, “I’m all for legalizing adult-use recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania. For me to sign, the bill must include efforts to restore justice to Pennsylvanians who have been over-punished for marijuana offenses. General Assembly: Let’s talk.”

Regan clarified his view of decriminalization, saying he thinks his and the governor’s position are not necessarily that far apart.

It would depend on how far the governor wants to go in deciding what ancillary acts associated with an individual’s marijuana arrest would allow them to be released from prison and have their record cleared, Regan said. He could support doing that for people convicted of low-level marijuana offenses that didn’t involve violence.

“I think we can get there,” Regan said.

Regan also wants to make clear that he does not favor decriminalization no matter where marijuana is purchased. He has no interest in legalizing marijuana purchased from a drug cartel. He favors legalizing only marijuana that has been tested to be safe in the same way medical marijuana is in Pennsylvania.

“There’s no way to completely eliminate the black market but if you look at when Prohibition took place, the black market that existed then, once [alcohol sales] became legal, the black market and bootleggers faded away,” Regan said. “We’re hoping for the same kind of reaction.”

{p class=”krtText”}Brown, too, is confident an agreement can be found on the various aspects of launching a legal cannabis program. He wants to see it lead to the creation of a state program that can be used as a capital fund to help minorities gain entry into this new industry.

{p class=”krtText”}He conceded the sponsorship memos contain some differences. But he thinks there is hope for passage as lawmakers see the two lawmakers from opposite sides of the aisle work together.

{p class=”krtText”}“We’re going to meet somewhere to get this thing done no matter want it takes,” Brown said.

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