A number of Pennsylvania officials support decriminalizing or even legalizing recreational marijuana but Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has a bold idea: selling it at state-run liquor stores. That way you can get cannabis with your chardonnay.
“The hardest place to get served underage in Philadelphia when I was growing up was a Pennsylvania state liquor store,” Kenney told WHYY, in a recent interview.
Kenney, a Democrat, has long been a supporter of legalizing marijuana. This proposal, he said, would benefit the city and the state.
Incidentally, it would also bolster the state’s roughly 600 liquor stores and the system’s 5,000 employees. Republican lawmakers have sought to privatize the system, including a raft of bills that passed the state House last month.
“To me, we have the perfect system to set up the legal recreational use of cannabis through a controlled state store system,” Kenny told the public radio affiliate, “allowing the state to capture all the income that is going to the underground.”
Placing the system entirely under state control would also ensure its integrity, the mayor said.
“You could get a bartender to look the other way and sell you a six-pack when you are 19, but when you went into a state store, they wanted to see a license, your license,” he said. “They didn’t care.”
Legislation introduced by state Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery County, and currently sitting in the Senate Law and Justice Committee would place oversight of retail marijuana sales to people 21 and older with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. So far, the bill has picked up one co-sponsor.
In the meantime, the state is in the midst of reviewing applications and awarding permits for grower/processors and dispensaries as part of its new medical marijuana law.
Gov. Tom Wolf and other key leaders statewide have said the state should allow its medical program to be fully implemented before going any further. Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, meanwhile, advocated for full legalization as a possible revenue generator.
A Franklin and Marshall poll released Thursday showed that 56 percent of the 639 registered voters who responded were in support of legalizing marijuana. In 2006, just 22 percent of voters supported legalization.
Although a number of states have legalized recreational marijuana use, the substance remains a Schedule 1 drug by the Drug Enforcement Administration, a category that includes other illegal drugs like heroin. As such, it could become subject to a federal crackdown, even in states that have passed laws permitting its cultivation and use.