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March 07, 2017

Wolf: Legalizing marijuana not the answer to balance Pa.'s budget

Despite a call from Pennsylvania's top financial officer to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, Gov. Tom Wolf maintained that the idea is not the solution to the state's budget woes.

Wolf appeared on KDKA, a CBS affiliate in Pittsburgh, on Tuesday to address Auditor General Eugene DePasquale's report that outlined the financial benefits of regulating and taxing the drug. Still waiting to see how legalization affects other states that have enacted legislation, Wolf cautioned residents: "that’s not going to help” the state's budget deficit.

Claiming the industry could generate $200 million annually in the Keystone State, DePasquale encouraged lawmakers Monday to consider passing legislation to regulate and tax the drug. "[T]he marijuana train has rumbled out of the station, and it is time to add a stop in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania," DePasquale urged.

Wolf isn't quite sold, arguing the proposal wouldn't have a significant impact on the deficit.

“I saw the report. I haven’t talked to the auditor general. And I think he’s trying to be helpful in terms of the budget deficit,” Wolf said. “His calculation I think had it about $200 million. We have a $3 billion dollar deficit, so that’s not going to help.”

While the Democratic governor has advocated for the reform of marijuana laws, Wolf still opposes legalization. Last year, he signed a bill into law that approved medical marijuana and pledged support to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana for recreational use.

But Wolf signaled an openness to observe states that have recently legalized the drug to gauge the outcome.

“I think Pennsylvania would do right to see what happens in Colorado, Oregon, Washington, some of the other states,” Wolf said, “because they all have different approaches to this.”

At least one state representative, Rep. Jordan Harris (D-186th) of Philadelphia, plans to push an effort to legalize recreational marijuana.