- The Washington Times - Friday, May 12, 2017

Weed and whiskey could both be purchased in Pennsylvania liquor stores if Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has his say. The first-term Democrat on Wednesday said the Keystone State could reduce crime while filling its coffers if it legalizes marijuana and regulates it like alcohol.

While Pennsylvania hasn’t legalized marijuana, Mr. Kenney said the commonwealth’s hundreds of state-run liquor stores could easily double as pot dispensaries should the state pass legislation to that effect.

“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,” Mr. Kenney said in an interview Wednesday on WHYY’s “Radio Times.”

“The hardest place to get served underage in Philadelphia when I was growing up was a Pennsylvania state liquor store,” he added. “You could get a bartender to look the other way and sell you a six-pack when you are 19, but when you went into a state store, they wanted to see a license. They didn’t care.”

Pennsylvania legalized medical marijuana in 2016, but state-approved dispensaries aren’t expected to begin serving patients until May 2018.

New polling indicates Pennsylvanians are more inclined than ever to outright legalize the plant, meanwhile, notwithstanding the federal government’s longstanding prohibition.. A Franklin and Marshall Poll released Thursday suggests 56 percent of Keystone State residents support legalizing recreational marijuana, up from just 40 percent two years earlier.

Nine states and the nation’s capital have passed recreational marijuana laws since 2012, and the first states to open non-medical dispensaries have since raked in millions of dollars in annual revenue through its state-sanctioned pot shops.

Pennsylvania should follow suit, Mr. Kenney said, suggesting the government-run liquor stores would help keep organized crime out of the mix.

“I think that’s the safest way to do it,” he said Wednesday. “I think that adults will be able to buy it and we will be able to eliminate the underground criminal element of this.”

Marijuana sales could be taxed by the state and used to fund matters such as public education, Mr. Kenney added. Colorado, the first state to legalize retail marijuana sales, earned about $50 million in taxes last year allocated toward school construction products.

For his part, fellow Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf has acknowledged the results of Thursday’s poll means recreational marijuana may soon be on the horizon.

“I think the attitudes of the people are evolving. We have a democracy, and the state has to go in sync with the attitudes of the people,” he said, CBS reported.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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