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State Lawmaker Pushes Marijuana Legalization After Study Shows Racial Disparity in Arrests

After a recent report reflected major racial disparities in the enforcement of marijuana crimes in Pennsylvania, State Rep. Ed Gainey of Pittsburgh decided to push to legalize (or at least decriminalize) the drug.

A new resolution Rep. Gainey introduced into the state House of Representatives would “establish an advisory committee to conduct an ongoing study on the legalization or decriminalization of marijuana and to report its findings and recommendations.”

The report, which came from the Pennsylvania chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), showed that black Pennsylvanians are eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession that those who are white. However, black people statistically do not use marijuana at much higher rates than other racial and ethnic groups.
The ACLU report also found that marijuana arrests overall have increased throughout the state since 2010.

Growing momentum for decriminalization

Delaware, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont have also recently launched study commissions of their cannabis laws. If adopted in Pennsylvania, the commission would include representatives from various state agencies, law enforcement officials, alcohol and drug service providers and criminal justice professionals. The group would examine the potential tax revenue generated through legalized marijuana, the costs associated with drug and alcohol treatment and diagnosis and changes in expenses associated with criminal investigations, incarceration and prosecution.

The state is also already in the process of implementing a new medical cannabis law the legislature enacted in 2016. Gov. Tom Wolf has vocalized his support for the decriminalization of marijuana, but has not issued a full-throated endorsement for legalization.

If you have been arrested for a drug crime in Pennsylvania, it’s important to remember that you have constitutional rights. Meet with experienced Reading criminal defense attorney David R. Eshelman.


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