Legal Recreational Pot in PA? 3 Lessons Learned from the Colorado Law

  Should recreational marijuana use be legal in Pennsylvania? More than half of PA residents now say the answer is Yes. But is legal pot a good deal for the Lancaster community?  Recreational marijuana use has become a hot issue recently as new laws and regulations in Colorado and a few other states have passed.  Just over 50% of Pennsylvanians polled in March 2015 said they would support legislation permitting adults to possess small amounts of marijuana for recreational use, according to Quinnipiac University. But before you give your support to legal marijuana use, consider these lessons we’re learning from Colorado’s legalization journey:

Faulty Funding

One of the primary arguments in favor of legal recreational use is that it gives government a framework for collecting fees and taxes that can be used for the community’s greater good. The Colorado law taxes retail sales of the drug with a 10% sales tax to offset regulation costs and a 15% fee to fund school capital projects. However, retail sales haven’t matched predictions, leaving gaps in expected funding. For example, the fee to fund school projects has produced just one-third of the $40 million it was expected to generate. In Pennsylvania, we’re already familiar with promised windfalls that don’t pan out: a decade after PA’s slot machine revenue was touted as an impending tax relief boon for the state’s homeowners, casino revenue has yet to provide significant tax relief—the average homeowner receives about $187 off his or her tax bill.

Drugged Driving

Driving under the influence of any mind-altering substance impacts functions like reaction time, judgment, and motor skills–and that creates the potential for harm or death for the impaired driver as well as passengers and anyone on the road. THC, pot’s active ingredient, is the second most common substance found in the blood of impaired and fatally injured drivers, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). In Colorado, the state reportedly has a tough time enforcing driver impairment laws because legal limits for marijuana levels are likely set too high. In addition, its law enforcement agencies don’t always have the tools or standardized reporting to accurately assess marijuana-related accidents.

Exposure in Kids

Some evidence suggests more babies in Colorado are testing positive for THC, according to Colorado pediatricians concerned about infant exposure. THC concentration is several times higher in breast milk than in the blood of the nursing mother, they argue, and since few studies have been done on breastfeeding infants of mothers who regularly use marijuana, its long-term effects on those babies aren’t fully known. Legal recreational pot poses another hazard for children as well: it’s reported in the same article that the state’s hospitals are seeing “a significant number of admissions” for accidental marijuana ingestion among kids younger than 12.

Should PA legalize recreational marijuana?

Legalizing recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania is a complex issue—one that could impact everyone in the community, from the preschool girl who accidentally ingests her mom’s legal weed to the innocent passenger killed by a driver high on legal pot.  For an in-depth look at the real-life health, social, and financial impact of the Colorado law, read Clearing the Haze, an excellent series from the Colorado Springs Gazette. Compass Mark’s mission is to help individuals, families, schools, and other organizations in Lancaster and Lebanon by providing addiction prevention and education resources. Learn more about our innovative programs, or find out how we’ll help you by calling our team at 717-299-2831.   Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at