The Law and Justice Committee’s first hearing on adult-use marijuana focused on testimony from law enforcement and local officials.
“We are arresting people for something that a majority of Americans believe should be legal,” Warren County District Attorney Robert Greene told members of the state Senate during a hearing on adult-use marijuana this week.
Greene, along with other elected officials and leaders in the medical marijuana industry, said it’s time for Pennsylvania to change its laws about recreational marijuana during the state Senate Law and Justice Committee’s first public hearing on adult-use marijuana.
Committee Chairperson Mike Regan (R-Cumberland), said the purpose of the hearing was to focus on the benefits of creating a regulated system for growing and selling recreational marijuana.
“Obviously, marijuana is not new,” Regan said. “It is already out there. It is already being used by millions of people. But in doing so, they are putting billions of dollars into the hands of violent criminals, and they are risking consuming a product that could be laced with substances such as fentanyl, crack cocaine, or embalming fluid.”
Regan is working on legislation to legalize adult-use marijuana in Pennsylvania. He said his bill would provide the state with access to a safe product, support law enforcement, and defund drug cartels.
Legislators in the state House and state Senate have introduced three other bills proposing the legalization of adult-use marijuana. All the bills still sit in committees.
Greene, one of two district attorneys who testified at the hearing, said legalizing marijuana and regulating it will control the situation in the state and keep residents safe.
State Rep. Amen Brown (D-Philadelphia) expressed concerns about the black market for marijuana — the quality of the marijuana being sold and the crime resulting from the sales.
Brown said a constituent contacted him about a flyer distributed in his district advertising an app for the purchase and delivery of marijuana. The constituent bought some marijuana, and Brown helped him get the product tested in a certified lab, which revealed it was contaminated with two different types of mold.
Philadelphia City Councilman Curtis Jones also testified alongside Brown about gang-related violent crimes connected to black market sales of different drugs, including a recent fatal shootout at a Target in Brown’s district.
Brown said legalizing adult-use marijuana would reduce the influence of the black market and significantly reduce violent incidents.
Greene said the majority of violent crime he prosecutes is related to domestic issues and usually involves alcohol or hard drugs, but almost never marijuana.
“Not once in my 21-year career have I seen someone who was high on weed that beat up their spouse,” he said.
Greene also talked about issues with establishing impairment in DUI cases and how legalization could bring clarity to assist law enforcement.
Security officials working at Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana dispensaries discussed the state’s seed-to-sale tracking system and the current security measures in place at dispensaries. Those security measures include 9-foot high fences, security cameras covering the entire outside and inside of the facilities, and armed security guards throughout the property.
“I think the black market demand would diminish with the adult use program,” said Bill Cook, chief security officer for Organic Remedies, which has four locations in the state. “I think people that are seeking a clean product that’s safe are going to go through the right channels.”
Regan said the next hearing on the issue will examine how other states have enacted recreational marijuana laws. The committee has not yet set a date for the next hearing.