Dialogue in Harrisburg on adult-use cannabis continues

The debate over whether to legalize adult-use cannabis continues in the state House.

A House Health Committee subcommittee has held an ongoing series of hearings aimed at gathering perspectives on the issue and the most recent focused on equity.

Rep. Kathy Rapp is highlighting testimony by a retired Superior Court judge that raised concern about promoting an industry “whose very existence depends upon drug dependence in our community.”

That testimony came from Cheryl Lynn Allen, the first black woman elected to the state Superior Court.

“We’ve heard from all sorts of experts in our four previous hearings on marijuana legalization,” Rapp said in a statement. “But Judge Allen is the first testifier we’ve heard from that gave us the criminal justice perspective on this issue.

“The picture she painted wasn’t pretty. In her 25-year career on the bench, she says she interacted with thousands of families that have been broken because of drug addiction.”

“I’ve had the opportunity to see the underside of the drug culture in our country,” Allen, who is currently counsel for the Pennsylvania Family Institute, said. “Having witnessed the broken families… I find myself asking ‘Why would you try to attempt to promote an industry whose very existence depends upon drug dependence in our community?'”

Allen argued that the cannabis industry would continue to promote drug dependence.

“The goal of government should be to enact programs and laws that serve to uplift and strengthen the community,” she said. “There is no good that can come from cannabis decriminalization….”

Rapp said earlier in the hearing that states have legalized still have a “component of an illegal market” and dispensaries in legal states that are opening in disadvantaged areas.

“We know that cannabis is extremely harmful to the unborn child and to the mother as well,” she added.

Later in the hearing, Rapp said that legalization would result in more accidents on highways, emergency room visits and consequences that haven’t been thought about yet.

“After hearing Judge Allen’s testimony, it’s clear to me that harm to children goes beyond their physical health,” Rapp said in a release after the hearing. “Marijuana is already damaging thousands of families in Pennsylvania. Legalizing it will just make that problem worse.”


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