DIGITAL EXCLUSIVE: Marijuana legalization in the United States

Digital Exclusive

The marijuana industry is growing as more states are legalizing adult use across the nation. 

Five more states jumped on board to legalize one or both forms of marijuana following the November 6th election.  

Pennsylvania is one of many states that allows the use of medical marijuana since 2016. A number of residents use it to treat some form of a medical issue, including Pennsylvania 2nd Lady Gisele Fetterman saying, ” I deal with chronic pain. I have 2 herniated discs and back damage.” 

The use of medical marijuana improved Fetterman’s quality of life. ” For me, it’s been life changing. I think the moment it really hit me is when my 11-year-old we were looking at old photos of me growing up and he said, ‘mommy were you in pain in that photo’ and I said yeah I was,” explains Fetterman. 

However, Pennsylvania remains off the list of states approving the use of recreational marijuana. Governor Wolf continues the push for legalization, believing the positives outweigh the negatives. 

Wolf says he is now in favor of legalizing marijuana for recreational use and is asking lawmakers to consider it.

 Experts agree, saying one positive outcome of legalization is lowering crime rates. Ellen Flenniken of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) says one person in the Untied States is arrested every minute for marijuana possession. “Legalization of marijuana reduces the harm of arresting people, incarcerating them, and ruining lives with criminal records that make it harder to get a job, housing, and even a credit card, “says Flenniken. 

Fetterman speaks out on the criminalization of recreational marijuana as well, saying “It’s a criminal justice issue, we have so many people in jail for something that’s legal in many other states.”  

Recreational marijuana is legal in 15 states

Graph Shows percentage of states that legalized a form of marijuana. 

Experts also believe that legalizing adult use and possession would help states financially. 

“It’ll bring in some really important tax revenue for the state particularly right now when states are struggling with their budget,” says Flenniken. 

“That’ll help with the over-incarceration problem; the fact that we’re spending billions of dollars on the criminal justice system, ” says Pennsylvania Senator Daylin Leach. 

Flenniken lives in New Jersey and used her state as an example to show how extreme and costly the issue of criminalizing marijuana is.  

“In New Jersey for example, we just legalized a couple of days ago and the state of New Jersey currently spends 140 million dollars every year arresting over 30,000 people simply for possessing marijuana,” says Flenniken. 

Senator Leach weighs in on the health benefits of legalization. He believes legalization would be safer saying, “They’ll do what they do with alcohol. They’ll walk into a store and there will be a well-known product that is accurately labeled and tested.” 

Experts say the cannabis industry is so large that legalization would also provide more jobs. “We see the benefits of bringing in jobs from farming jobs and growing jobs, to production, to sales jobs it’s a whole industry, “says Flenniken. 

Both Lawmakers and experts see this move as beneficial for states, saying that educating people on how legalization helps would remove the negative stigma attached to marijuana. 

“I think the stigma prevents a lot of people from seeking help for their own pain and other things they’re going through and  these conversations really help to break that, “says Fetterman. 

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