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By Steve Birr
The mayor of Philadelphia is advocating state lawmakers fully legalize marijuana and make it available for sale only through state-run liquor stores.
Democratic Mayor Jim Kenney made the suggestion during a local radio interview Wednesday, explaining it will benefit Philadelphia and the state by making it harder for minors to access the substance. Support for the decriminalization or legalization of recreational marijuana is building among lawmakers in the state, but many are still wary of taking action until their medical marijuana program, signed into law in April 2016, is fully implemented, reports Penn Live.
Kenney is a longtime advocate of marijuana legalization and argues it would rake in huge revenue for the state, money that currently flows to the black market.
“The hardest place to get served underage in Philadelphia when I was growing up was a Pennsylvania state liquor store,” Kenney said Wednesday, according to Penn Live. “To me, we have the perfect system to set up the legal recreational use of cannabis through a controlled state store system, allowing the state to capture all the income that is going to the underground.”
A new poll from Franklin & Marshall College shows 56 percent of voters in Pennsylvania support full legalization of marijuana, up from only 22 percent support in 2006. Despite the popular support, current proposals in the legislature are unlikely to gain much traction.
Voters in the state are getting more vocal in their criticism over the current status of marijuana in the state. Protests broke out after police raided a marijuana party at a warehouse in Philadelphia arresting 22 people April 22. Invitations posted on Instagram advertised the party, which had hundreds of guests.
Police said the event amounted to a giant group of people smoking, buying and selling marijuana and noted they also seized handguns and bulk amounts of cash during the raid. Authorities also pointed out the safety hazards such events pose to the community and to those in attendance. Residents of the local neighborhood said the warehouse is a popular location for these kinds of parties and were happy the police took action to shut it down.
Protesters gathered in front of the police station a day after the arrests, calling the incident an unprovoked raid of an otherwise peaceful gathering.