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Our opinion: Have state vote on marijuana

It’s put up or shut up time when it comes to marijuana legalization in Pennsylvania.

There are certainly concerns over workplace safety and public health, but actions taken by neighboring states may force the state’s hand.

Much of the commonwealth’s population lives within two hours of a state that sells marijuana legally now that Maryland has joined New York and New Jersey in legalizing the drug. Delaware almost joined those three neighboring states, but marijuana legalization legislation was vetoed earlier this year.

There is one positive to waiting until other states have set up their legal marijuana markets — Pennsylvania doesn’t have to make the same mistakes a state like New York has made. New York’s market has taken to long to set up that businesses are risking their state licenses in order to satisfy pent-up demand for marijuana. It’s taken a ludicrous amount of time for the state to get its legal product grown, hand out licenses and build the shops in part because the state is approaching the legalization market as a criminal justice reform tool that is complicating the process.

Pennsylvania doesn’t have to make the same mistakes. But the state is losing money it may never be able to recoup by waiting. Those living along the Pennsylvania border will soon have pretty easy access to legal marijuana if they so choose even though marijuana is still illegal in Pennsylvania. It’s safe to assume those who would already break state law to get marijuana won’t mind taking the gamble to get legal marijuana products from a neighboring state to have in the privacy of their own home. And the longer the state waits, those legal markets and the relationship between buyers and sellers in other states get more established.

Obviously there is no legislative consensus on this matter, or it would have been decided already. Why not put legalizing marijuana on the ballot for November’s election and let the voters make the decision once and for all? It would put an end to a lot of back-and-forth nonsense in the halls of Harrisburg and finally end this debate once and for all.

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