A public listening tour on recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania made a stop at Bucks County Community College in Newtown Township on Wednesday evening. Hosted by Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, local Democratic politicians such as State Sen. Steve Santarsiero, State Rep. Perry Warren, State Rep. Tina Davis, and State Rep. Wendy Ullman listened to a crowd of Bucks Countians as they shared their views.
After the panel in the in the Zlock Performing Arts Center, politicians shared what they think should be done about marijuana laws in Bucks County and the rest of the state. The event was opened to anyone who wanted their opinions heard by the lieutenant governor and local politicians.
Many people in the audience came up to speak. One of them was John Ruby, a recovering addict who feels that “this country is at war; this country is in a drug emergency.” He believes that marijuana is, in fact, a gateway drug, and that it is what lead him down the path of drug abuse.
With a statistic of 70,000 people that died of overdoses last year, Ruby equated the amount of deaths to “a plane crash every day” in regards to the amount of people who have died of drug overdoses. He also discussed Fentanyl’s deadly impact on our society and how he thinks Colorado’s approach to legalization is a failed experiment, citing an increase in traffic fatalities since the laws were made there, a claim that has an unclear answer.
Fetterman began his listening tour in February, visiting counties across the commonwealth holding open discussions with the public and politicians, the main topic being the legalization of recreational marijuana in the state.
Among the audience was a large number of those who are for the legalization of recreational and medicinal marijuana consumption.
Dr. Scott Elliott was among those in favor of legalizing recreational marijuana use in the state. A long time Bucks County resident, Elliott was the former director of the Western Massachusetts chapter of NORML, an organization that fought for marijuana legalization since 1970. Elliot was proud to celebrate his “51st year of getting stoned”. He also wonders “how many people were killed by violent unicorns this year,” a tease alluding to marijuana fatality statistics.
Pennsylvania already allows the sale of medicinal marijuana to those with prescriptions via dispensaries, which is projected to make the Keystone State one of the biggest marijuana markets in the country. Despite this, the recreational use of marijuana is still subject to a fine and/or arrest, something that Fetterman mentioned can be expunged off one’s record with ease.
“It’s friggin 2019” said Stephen Cickay of Newtown. That statement alone received a large applause from the audience.
Fred Harran, Bensalem’s public safety director, said while in uniform that the legalization if recreational marijuana use would lead to more impaired drivers on local roads.
The local politicians in attendance wanted to make their plans for this issue heard. Santarsiero, who voted in favor of medical marijuana in 2015, said: “I think we need to have more time to see how it plays out in the states that have done this to get a better sense of whether it is in fact the right step for Pennsylvania.”
“This is an important public topic that people feel very passionately about,” Fetterman said.
At the end of the discussion, Fetterman asked all in attendance to raise their hands to show which side they were on. An overwhelming majority of those in attendance raise their hands in support of marijuana, a few in opposition, and only three undecided on the matter.
Fetterman plans to hold more open discussions in the next few days. His last stops will be in Cameron County and several stops through Philadelphia.