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Pennsylvania Lawmaker Proposes Marijuana Legalization Committee to Address Racial Arrest Disparity

On Monday the ACLU released a report stating that African-Americans were eight times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than whites in Pennsylvania. In response, a Pennsylvania lawmaker is proposing a committee to research the possibility of decriminalizing and legalizing marijuana.

Pittsburgh House of Representatives member Ed Gainey introduced a proposal that would "establish an advisory committee to conduct an ongoing study on the legalization or decriminalization of marijuana and to report its findings and recommendations." He drew upon the ACLU report as support, noting that African-Americans are targeted much higher despite using the drug at the same rate as other ethnic groups.

The committee would examine nearly everything that could possibly affected by marijuana legalization, including tax revenue, incarceration rates, costs of prosecuting drug cases and many more. Gainey has also included examining drug and alcohol addiction rates and comparing those to marijuana.

While it's unclear if Gainey's proposal will be adopted, it isn't necessarily dead-on-arrival. Last year Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana, and the state's current governor, Tom Wolf, has expressed an interest in decriminalizing cannabis, although he's also stated he thinks the state should hold off on allowing recreational for now.

However it's not as if the report from the ACLU was some groundbreaking or shocking revelation. We've known for many years that black people are incarcerated at a much higher rate for marijuana crimes than other racial groups, despite similar levels of use amongst the entire population. So it may take more than one ACLU report to change politicians' minds.

(h/t Forbes)


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