Medical marijuana use is legal in Pennsylvania with a medical marijuana card. I think it's time to go all the way: legalize it, decriminalize it, and put this issue to bed so Pennsylvania can move forward.
The public has long misunderstood marijuana. From as early as 1919, anti-weed propaganda has been spread, including the most famous piece of the subject propaganda, the film, "Reefer Madness," which premiered in 1936. This was the noted start of a disinformation campaign that would span what is now over a century. Marijuana and the cannabis plant have a myriad of uses beyond that of recreational drug use. The hemp plant, though harmless, is one of the most sustainable crops known to man. Hemp can be used for making paper, textiles, bioplastics, construction materials, insulation, biofuel, and even food. Hemp has proven to have a positive environmental impact: absorbing a high volume of CO2, acting as a weed control system to allow farmers to avoid the use of herbicides, and requiring minimal water usage and use of pesticides to allow for proper hearty growth.
Medicinally, marijuana has been used to aid in the management of pain which benefits everyone from cancer patients, chronic pain sufferers, and those recovering from injury without the use of opioids. It has been known to stimulate the appetite, helping cancer patients, those with eating disorders, and others with issues sustaining their appetite and proper nutrient levels. Marijuana has also been known to treat some drug-resistant mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, ODD, ADHD, and more.
However, not everyone who has a need for medical marijuana has access to it. The process to obtain a medical marijuana card can be lengthy and costly, and it must be renewed often. This can provide a barrier to those struggling with making ends meet or leaving their home and those who do not have reliable internet access. Further, the cost of medical marijuana is high and is not covered by insurance. Legalizing recreational use would provide for fewer roadblocks to obtaining this needed drug.
Pennsylvania could take a lesson from a state like Colorado and its commercialization model. The state has benefitted greatly from the sale and taxation of legal cannabis, generating 76 million in revenue from taxes, fees, and sales in 2014. Numbers have only continued to rise since then. Additionally, in the cannabis industry created over 18,000 new jobs in Colorado, adding $2.4 billion in economic activity to the state according to an article by the Washington Post. Besides the benefit of revenue, there is room for more cost savings with the legalization and decriminalization of the drug.
Decriminalizing marijuana very obviously means fewer arrests for possession. According to the latest data, over 20,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession in 2020. At over $40,000 a year spent per prisoner (according to data from the Vera Institute of Justice) the cost savings are apparent. Of course, not every arrest results in imprisonment, but many people are imprisoned for possession of a small amount of a substance that is not addictive in nature and could easily be regulated similarly to alcohol. These people should be released from prison and offered services to get back on their feet after imprisonment. Reintegrating those unjustly jailed should be the first priority of the government. Giving people back their lives, and allowing them to be contributing members of society is the goal.
TL;DR: legalize marijuana because it's good for the environment, medicinal use, and the economy; let people out of prison who are incarcerated based on the previous laws. Say YES to jobs, mental health, the planet, and restorative justice.