Before you read the article, make sure to check out the following op-ed – Sen. Mike Regan: Legalization of adult-use marijuana is inevitable

It’s disappointing to see that my state senator, Mike Regan (R-Cumberland), is now the lead sponsor of a bill to legalize and commercialize the sale of marijuana for recreational use: a drug proven to be addictive and dangerous.

Regan’s announcement of his changed position used flawed reasoning that should concern not only his constituents but families throughout Pennsylvania.

99% THC: Higher Potency, Greater Harm

Sen. Regan claims we must legalize and commercialize marijuana to have “access to a safe and trusted product.” But are products with 99% THC (the psychoactive compound that produces the high) safe? Marijuana (dry flower) can contain up to around 20% THC, but manufacturers are creating unnatural, dangerous, and highly potent products in a variety of forms like concentrates containing up to 99% THC that would become commercialized for recreational sale if state lawmakers experiment with full legalization.

In Colorado, state lawmakers realized they went too far with their full marijuana legalization that permitted unlimited potency. This led to the overwhelmingly bipartisan passage of a bill this year that recognized the harms from products using high amounts of THC. This new law has various provisions, including restrictions on high-potency products for young individuals and funding research on high-potency THC’s impact on the developing brain. 

“Today’s high-potency marijuana causes higher rates of suicide and mental illness when used recreationally and illegally under 21 years old,” said Laura Stack, whose son took his own life in 2019 after becoming psychotic due to addiction to highly concentrated marijuana. She stood at the Colorado bill signing last June.

‘Today’s high-potency marijuana causes higher rates of suicide and mental illness when used recreationally and illegally under 21 years old.’

Kate Appleman, Senior Clinical Director of Men’s Treatment Services at Caron Treatment Center in Berks County, Pennsylvania., sees firsthand patients on a regular basis that have a marijuana-use disorder. She says, “Potency represents a sea change in how ‘safe’ marijuana is to use. As a result of the increase in potency of marijuana, we’re seeing a lot more mental health issues surfacing.”

Every legalization bill proposed to date in Pennsylvania has lacked any limits on marijuana potency. It fits the mold of pro-pot politicians like Rep. Jake Wheatley (D-Allegheny) who claim marijuana is “as close to harmless as it gets.” Flippant statements like that ignore the numerous studies showing personal harm from marijuana use and the societal problems it has caused.

Law Enforcement, Health Organizations Recognize the Harms

These real harms are exactly why so many organizations and associations are opposed to its commercialized sale, including law enforcement. “Marijuana legalization in Pennsylvania will pose significant challenges for law enforcement resulting from the unanticipated consequences it has on crime and public safety,” says Scott Bohn for the PA Chiefs of Police Association.  

“Recreational marijuana is not safe or harmless,” states the PA District Attorneys Association. “Lawmakers need to pause for a deeper understanding because lives are at stake,” adds Caron Treatment Centers.

National health organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Medical Association (AMA), and the American Automotive Association (AAA) all oppose the full legalization of marijuana. They cite a wide array of reasons to oppose marijuana, and chief among them is the harm to children.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the gold standard of youth use data, found in 2020 double-digit increases in marijuana use amongst 12-17-year-olds in several legal states – California, Nevada, and Oregon – since 2017. This is no surprise considering how aggressively the marijuana industry targets children through its colorful, youth-oriented marketing appeals and products. 

“Legalization would create an industry to commercialize and market marijuana, which would be harmful for children,” says the AAP.

Black Markets Continue to Thrive

Incredibly, Sen. Regan makes an absurd claim that either Pennsylvanians are for the full legalization of marijuana for recreational use or for the illegal cartels “who will cut their heads off.”

This is not to say such cartel violence does not occur, but for Sen. Regan to equate keeping Pennsylvania out of the state-sponsored sale of high-potency marijuana products for recreational use with supporting gruesome cartel violence is simply shameful.

It’s false to believe cartels and the black market will vanish after a move to full legalization. We’ve seen the opposite occur in states experimenting with full legalization. Here’s a headline in the Chicago Sun Times back in June: “Billions in black-market weed still selling in Illinois 18 months after marijuana legalized.” Experts estimate the illicit pot trade in Illinois – the work of the cartels – is now over $4 billion.

It’s false to believe cartels and the black market will vanish after a move to full legalization. We’ve seen the opposite occur in states experimenting with full legalization.

What about a more “mature” market like Colorado, which moved to fully legalize weed in 2012. Here’s a Denver Post headline from this year: “Black market marijuana grows are popping up faster than law enforcement can take them down.” U.S. Attorney Jason Dunn, after an illegal marijuana bust in 2019, stated, “Colorado has become the epicenter of black market marijuana in the United States.”

The reality is the black market doesn’t go away by simply passing a law to allow the state to legalize marijuana’s commercial sale for recreational use.

Revenue Pipedream

In 2018, former auditor general Eugene DePasquale was the first to promise for Pennsylvania a specific revenue projection – $581 million annually – if we were to legalize and commercialize the sale of marijuana for recreational use. That loosely calculated figure relied on a 35% sales tax, one of the highest marijuana sales tax in the nation – and that wasn’t including any additional local taxes added on.

Sen. Regan chose to announce his forthcoming bill by claiming “independent estimates have forecasted that Pennsylvania could receive $1 billion annually in the form of tax revenue through the legalization of adult-use marijuana. It is important that we use these dollars wisely.” Double what DePasquale recently estimated with his high 35% sales tax? Even pro-pot politicians point to revenue projections much lower than this with marijuana legalization bills.

And mind you, he’s not saying that overall sales would be that high, just tax revenue, which would be a mere fraction of the projected total sales, a projection likely to be more than any other state.

The bottom line is whatever the made-up number for projected revenue is, it would be wise of our politicians to calculate the many costs associated with any highly inflated revenue promises. To note, no state has ever met its first-year “revenue” numbers with legalizing marijuana. As the former Colorado pot czar Andrew Freedman said, “You do not legalize for taxation. It’s a myth.”

It Is Not Inevitable

Sen. Regan claims full legalization of marijuana is “inevitable” – which sounds more like a contract lobbyist from the marijuana industry than a state legislator. This claim is perhaps the worst cop-out a legislator can make. Winter is inevitable. Death is inevitable. Legalizing a dangerous and addictive drug like marijuana for recreational use? It’s not inevitable since it depends on our elected state lawmakers choosing whether or not to pass a bill.

And if our elected state lawmakers are truly concerned for the families in their districts, they should reject anyone’s claims of inevitability and instead, actively resist ushering in public policies with such potential harm to Pennsylvania families.

Dan Bartkowiak is the Director of Communications for Pennsylvania Family Institute. @DanBartkowiak

3 thoughts on “Dan Bartkowiak: New push for legal weed uses old tactics: levying false claims, ignoring science and harm in other states”

  1. Cannabis consumers deserve and demand equal rights and protections under our laws that are currently afforded to the drinkers of far more dangerous and deadly, yet perfectly legal, widely accepted, endlessly advertised and even glorified as an All-American pastime, alcohol.

    Plain and simple!

    Legalize Nationwide!

    Fear of Cannabis Legalization Nationwide is unfounded. Not based on any science or fact whatsoever. So please prohibitionists, we beg you to give your scare tactics, “Conspiracy Theories” and “Doomsday Scenarios” over the inevitable Legalization of Cannabis Nationwide a rest. Nobody is buying them anymore these days. Okay?

    Furthermore, if all prohibitionists get when they look into that nice, big and shiny crystal ball of theirs, while wondering about the future of cannabis legalization, is horror, doom, and despair, well then I suggest they return that thing as quickly as possible and reclaim the money they shelled out for it, since it’s obviously defective.

    The prohibition of cannabis has not decreased the supply nor the demand for cannabis at all. Not one single iota, and it never will. Just a huge and complete waste of our tax dollars to continue criminalizing citizens for choosing a natural, non-toxic, relatively benign plant proven to be much safer than alcohol.

    If prohibitionists are going to take it upon themselves to worry about “saving us all” from ourselves, then they need to start with the drug that causes more death and destruction than every other drug in the world COMBINED, which is alcohol!

    Why do prohibitionists feel the continued need to vilify and demonize cannabis when they could more wisely focus their efforts on a real, proven killer, alcohol, which again causes more destruction, violence, and death than all other drugs, COMBINED?

    Prohibitionists really should get their priorities straight and/or practice a little live and let live. They’ll live longer, happier, and healthier, with a lot less stress if they refrain from being bent on trying to control others through Draconian Cannabis Laws.

  2. What a long-winded bunch of absolute BS. I mean, how much of your “op-Ed”’is just plagiarized regurgitation of archaic points that if you do just the most basic of google searches will show as false. Stop. Stop the lies. Stop the nonsense. Legalize a plant that has thousands of more medical benefits than all the addictive pills in the world combined.

  3. This article contains 80% pure propaganda which is far more harmful to the individual and society, than the 20% THC in my joint. That’s not to say that the advocates for marijuana don’t similarly spew a bunch of nonsense online in favor of marijuana.

    But the bottom line is this: there are negative effects to the use of marijuana, but not the crazy dramatic effects the author or writes of. But still, for many, those negative effects may outweigh any benefit or perceived benefit of the drug.

    But should it be illegal? Of course not. Lots of things have negative effects. It is generally accepted as true that if you smoke cigarettes, they will almost certainly kill you, but cigarettes aren’t illegal. The devastating effects of alcohol are well-known, yet it is legal and perfectly socially acceptable for all walks of society to drink a glass of wine or beer. Cheeseburgers and donuts are a terrible idea for people that are obese, who have high blood pressure and are diabetic. Obesity is presently one of the highest causes of death, but we don’t have cops standing outside of donut shops arresting the fat plops that walk out with donut powder on their shirts. I mean it’s crazy to even conceptualize how marijuana could be unlawful in today’s day in age, but these other things are lawful?

    Should we let the government prohibit anything that might be harmful to us?

    Stop with the nonsense.

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