In September, Gov. Tom Wolf publicly announced his support for legalizing recreational marijuana for adult use. Days later, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the state’s top law enforcement official, did the same.
Cannabis prohibition has been a heavy burden on Pennsylvania taxpayers. Approximately 20,000 Pennsylvanians are arrested per year for simple possession charges, costing the state tens of millions of dollars annually. This does not include lost tax revenue, which the auditor general estimates to be an annual $580 million.
The supposed rationale behind prohibition is safety — prohibition keeps a “dangerous gateway drug” out of people’s hands. However, despite decades of enforcement funded by Pennsylvania’s middle class, cannabis remains easily accessible via a thriving black market.
This is simply because Pennsylvanians, and Americans in general, enjoy cannabis. There is a huge demand for it. Experts anticipate the legal market will soon grow to become a multi-billion dollar industry. As long as there is a large demand, the black market will provide the supply.
This is a dangerous scenario as a thriving, unrestricted black market allows for easy access to minors and also allows for contaminated products to make it into the hands of consumers. This unrestricted market situation is the primary factor behind the unfortunate “vaping crisis.”