Republican state Sen. Mike Regan, a former U.S. marshal, spent years fighting the Drug War. But Regan has now called for marijuana to be legalized in Pennsylvania.
“I think it’s inevitable,” said Regan, who represents Cumberland and York counties. “It’s common sense to think we’re going to do it at some time and it should be done smart.”
Regan’s bill would allow adults to use Cannabis for recreational purposes, reports PennLive. He says his Republican affiliation may be key in getting his bill passed.
This is a big change from the way Regan used to talk about weed legalization.
“It just doesn’t seem right to me,” Regan said in 2016. “It’s a drug, and I do think there’s something to it being a gateway drug, leading to other things, which scares me, especially with the heroin epidemic going on right now.”
“If you really want to have access to recreational marijuana, the way it’s going you won’t have to travel far,” Regan said in 2016, reports ABC 27. “But I think it’s going to be a while before you see it here in Pennsylvania.”
Regan Circulates Memo In Pennsylvania Legislature
The legislation is still a work in progress. But Regan began circulating a memo on Monday seeking support from lawmakers.
In it, Regan wrote, “As chairman of the Senate Law and Justice Committee and a former member of law enforcement, rather than sit idly by and allow others to shape the legislation, I am stepping up to be a leader on the issue, as I did on medical marijuana.”
“Two of our neighboring states, New Jersey and New York, are among them,” Regan said in the memo. “We will soon experience border bleed with Pennsylvanians contributing to the tax base of those states and helping to pay for their roads and bridges, while the commonwealth deals with the implications of purchases brought across state lines without the revenue or resources in our legal system to address them.”
His bill focuses solely on legalizing marijuana. It would allow anyone 21 years of age or older to buy and possess “a personal amount” of Cannabis, which he guesses would be about an ounce.
Governor On Board
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf signed a law allowing marijuana for medicinal purposes in 2016. Wolf has made legalization a priority in his reelection platform, reports Fox 43.
But years of such efforts by the Democrats have so far failed to gain traction in the GOP-controlled Legislature. “I think it’s a benefit that I’m the one offering it,” Regan said.
Gov. Wolf and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman have been pushing for marijuana to be legalized to generate more money for the state. They also want to address social justice concerns of people getting criminal records for smoking pot.
Sen. Regan isn’t the first Republican to propose Cannabis legalization. State Sen. Daniel Laughlin (R-Erie) co-sponsored the Adult Use Cannabis and Economic Recovery bill along with State Sen. Sharif Street (D-Philadelphia) in February 2021.
In addition, Regan’s bill isn’t the first to be introduced this session. State Reps. Jake Wheatley (D-Allegheny) and Dan Frankel (D-Allegheny) announced they would cosponsor HB 2050. That’s a new version of a bill of the same name that did not pass last session.
“This is a completely new bill with a lot of, we think, important improvement,” Wheatley said at a press conference Sept. 28.
‘People Will Change Their Minds’
Regan thinks his experience as a former U.S. marshal who spent years fighting the War On Drugs will help him convince his colleagues.
“I think I need an opportunity to get before the group and present my rationale,” Regan said. “People will change their minds. We’ll see.”
Legalization would bring Pennsylvania $1 billion annually in taxes. It would also take funds away from illegal drug dealers, according to Regan.
“It’s a big thing for people to wrap their heads around legalizing marijuana but it’s not really being enforced right now,” Regan said “And the only people who are winning are the bad guys.”
There is still a long road ahead for the measure, Regan said. The bill could be up to 400 pages long, and needs to cover complicated issues like how to test for driving under the influence.
If Regan’s bill is enacted, it would make Pennsylvania the 19th state in the nation to legalize the adult use of marijuana.