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Relaxing marijuana laws has promising benefits

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Everyone knows Philadelphians are avid fans of the color green. But with the recent revelation of City Councilman Jim Kenney’s intent to propose a new marijuana bill, the area may be welcoming a different, more herbal shade of the favorable color.

According to the Marijuana Policy Project, in the United States, there is one pot possession arrest every 42 seconds, 87% of which are for simple possession. The decriminalizing bill will call for an end to arrests involving minor marijuana possession. The cutoff: One ounce. If passed, rather than tossing an offender in handcuffs, police would issue a summons entailing a $200 fine and mandatory three-hour drug abuse class.

Earlier this year, voters in Colorado made recreational cannabis legal and Washington is next line. According to the non-partisan Tax Foundation, Colorado stands to take in a whopping $70 million in new taxes, as policymakers are heavily taxing the sales of these products, which are in very high demand. The pros of marijuana legalization continue to turn heads and elevate new mindsets regarding the potent herb. Even without full legalization, decriminalization stands to offer countless benefits to the communities it affects.

In Philadelphia alone, the bill would cut down 17,000 police hours spent yearly on minor marijuana bookings. "Those officers could be doing more important things than locking up a kid who's got two joints in his pocket," Kenney said. According to the councilman, these lost hours and the removal of mandatory jail time could also save the city approximately $3 million.

New Jersey could also start seeing more green. NJ Sen. Nicholas Scutari revealed plans to introduce a bill within a month that would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana, though the proposal is expected to be greeted with skepticism, including disapproval from Gov. Chris Christie. Scutari is focused on keeping an open dialogue on the issue.

Kenney has made it clear that he is not advocating the full legalization of cannabis. So, the state of Pennsylvania should hold off on opening the gateway and rolling out the welcoming mat. The city should, however, be prepared to accept some practical benefits, many of which are consistently overlooked as the country continues this ongoing dispute surrounding the legalization of marijuana.

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