Marijuana is fully legal in Colorado and Washington while 17 other states allow medical exemptions or decriminalization that effectively nullifies federal prohibition. Now State Senator Daylin Leach wants Pennsylvania to be the third state to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol. What’s different from the other two is alcohol in Pennsylvania is exclusively sold in state-owned stores. Leach’s proposal has yet to be introduced as a bill, but it is already drawing debate and competition.

At the crux of the issue is the state education budget’s funding. While Governor Tom Corbett prefers privatizing the state liquor stores for around $1 billion, Senator Leach makes his “long-run” financial case on his website:

In addition to raising millions of dollars per year from tax revenue, Pennsylvania would save more than $325 million per year by legalizing marijuana. The most conservative estimates say the revenue generated by taxing the sales of marijuana would amount to at least $24 million per year.

Governor Corbett, a Republican, favors the status quo on marijuana prohibition, promising a veto. Senator Leach, a Democrat, favors the status quo on state-owned liquor stores. One wishes their bipartisan instincts would kick in for full privatization and legalization, but common sense only goes so far even at this promising point in the progressing push back against prohibition of marijuana. Tenth Amendment Center’s Communications Director, Mike Maharrey sees a clear path for Leach to take:

Even with the threat of a governor’s veto, Senator Leach should press forward with this bill. Drug policy is clearly one of the ‘numerous and indefinite objects’ James Madison said would remain with the states and the people. Let it play out in the state legislature. If the governor decides to veto it, I guess that’s his prerogative, but at least the the final decision will rest with the people of Pennsylvania, not some politician representing Alabama in D.C.

In 2010, a poll showed 33% of Pennsylvanians support legalizing marijuana, with 60% opposed. Because of Colorado and Washington, it’s reasonable to assume those numbers are closer today and worth the upcoming political scrimmage in the Keystone State.


Track the status of marijuana laws in states around the country here:

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