With the legalization of marijuana seemingly inevitable in Pennsylvania, the House Health Subcommittee on Health Care Wednesday discussed the implications and effects of cannabis use.

Members of the committee acknowledged that legalization is likely to happen statewide or nationwide, but knowing the risks was important to protect Pennsylvanians.

Some speakers, including Kent Vrana, a professor at Penn State College of Medicine, were opposed to legalization over the risks to children and contaminated cannabis.

“We need to know that there are no pesticides, organic solvents, heavy metals, or synthetic contaminants in the products that the people of the Commonwealth are using,” Vrana said.

Vrana also spoke of the problematic nature of synthesized THC, which can come in the form of Delta 8 or K2 among others.

The synthetics are not derived from the plant, he said.

An issue brought up was the black market and illicit sales of cannabis.
Amanda Reiman, chief knowledge officer at New Frontier Data, explained that legalization would stifle the illicit market by 2028.

If Pennsylvania were to continue using a medical model, illegal sales would continue being higher than legal ones into 2030.

Carnegie Mellon Professor Jonathan Caulkins said it is a misconception to say the illegal market shrinks if it has a lower percentage of sales as the total market gets bigger.

Reiman said the destigmatization of marijuana use not only makes people more comfortable talking about it but also taking a child to the hospital if they accidentally consume cannabis edibles.

Youth access to cannabis products was a key topic.

Minority Chair Rep. Kathy Rapp, R-Warren, argued that adult-use cannabis increases the likelihood for children to use it.

Reiman said regardless of laws, young people will do what they want.

“We have to recognize that no matter how many laws we pass and how many regulations, teenagers are gonna want to get into things they’re not supposed to get into,” Reiman said.

Reiman mentioned a policy in California that uses tax revenue from cannabis to create youth prevention and community reinvestment programs.

Cannabis consumers on the political spectrum are fairly close, with 36% use among liberals and 28% among conservatives, Reiman said.