Opinion: Marijuana Should Be Legalized in Pennsylvania

Loghan Hirkey, Staff Writer

Last week was 4/20, a day dedicated to celebrating and smoking marijuana. This 4/20, though, took on an entirely new meaning for the residents of New Jersey who observe this holiday. 

On April 21, New Jersey became the 18th state to allow legal recreational sales of marijuana. Given the close proximity of New Jersey to the state of Pennsylvania, who is to say when we at Villanova will receive the same great news.

The legalization of recreational marijuana, though, has long been a subject of political debate in Pennsylvania. With products such as cigarettes, alcohol and vapes being available to buy at the age of 21, why shouldn’t marijuana be added to the list?

  In truth, there have been many studies that show potential health or medical benefits of marijuana. Such benefits include decreasing nausea, acting as a muscle relaxant and aiding chronic pain, an undoubtedly better alternative in the face of highly addicting opioids that are frequently prescribed for chronic pain. 

Such health advantages are not going unnoticed. According to an Emerson College Polling survey of 1,069 Pennsylvanians, 48.5 percent of Republicans and Democrats supported legalizing weed in Pennsylvania, 15 percent were on the fence about it or had no opinion.

This study was conducted from March 26-28 of this year. With a seemingly positive response from members of this state, why shouldn’t Pennsylvanians have similar access to recreational marijuana use?

Despite these potential health benefits, the Pennsylvania government notes a few detriments that could arise by legalizing marijuana.

The biggest hindrance lies in steeper societal costs and taxes. According to ProCon.org, societal costs of marijuana use include paying for increased emergency room visits as well as medical care and addiction treatment for those who are uninsured.

With alcohol and vaping already being large contributors to such financial burdens, Pennsylvania does not want to take the risk of raising taxes any higher.

Another notable problem, also according to ProCon.org, is that traffic accidents and deaths increase when marijuana is legalized. Marijuana-related traffic deaths rose 62 percent following its legalization in Colorado.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety also reported that fatal crashes involving marijuana doubled after its legalization in Washington.

Therefore, the state of Pennsylvania also does not want to face greater problems involving car accidents, especially given that we are in the midst of a drunk driving epidemic. Ultimately, these are both two major arguments for why weed should not be legalized in Pennsylvania.

However, increasing education and awareness of safe marijuana use could lessen the impacts of such concerns. Like alcohol and nicotine, teaching students at a young age how to be responsible with marijuana could result in fewer accidents, especially on the road, and thus fewer taxes for Pennsylvanians to pay.

With all the positive outcomes that come with smoking weed, it is unclear why it is still illegal, yet consumption of alcohol and nicotine products is allowed. It seems to be, almost certainly so, the lesser evil of the three.

Beyond this, legalizing weed would be safer for those who consume it anyway. Receiving marijuana from illegal, black market resources can create situations where people ingest harmful, dangerous substances as opposed to actual weed.

Being able to go into a store to safely purchase marijuana would ease a lot of the potentially harmful outcomes of current weed transactions.

Everyone should be given the opportunity to safely try marijuana. Eighteen states are truly in on the 4/20 celebrations, with New Jersey the most recent to join the mix––Pennsylvania, then, should be next to join the party.