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Legalizing marijuana not the answer for school funding

We strongly believe that Pennsylvania owes children in low-wealth school districts better educations than they’re receiving now in their understaffed, under-resourced, crowded and crumbling schools.

Six school districts, including Panther Valley, were among the plaintiffs that won a landmark lawsuit last February in which a Commonwealth Court judge ruled that state officials weren’t fulfilling their obligation, under the state constitution, to provide all students with a “thorough and efficient” education.

It’s past time for the state to meet that obligation.

But we believe there’s something unseemly about legalizing marijuana in order to provide children with better educations.

We realize that we may be outliers in our continued opposition to legalizing marijuana. We’ve fully supported its medical use. And we’ve editorialized for its decriminalization, because racial disparities persist in marijuana arrests - Black and white Americans used marijuana at roughly comparable rates in 2020, according to Pew Research Center, but Black Americans are much more likely to be penalized for it.

That said, we still haven’t seen evidence that convinces us that the recreational use of marijuana is harmless.

And, yes, we’re aware that alcohol - sold in Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board stores - isn’t harmless, either.

But the number of Lancaster County roadway fatalities is already 4.1 times greater than the average county in the United States, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. We dread the possibility of more impaired drivers on our roads.

Alcohol impairment is more easily detected when a person is stopped for driving under the influence. A roadside Breathalyzer can quickly determine a person’s blood alcohol level, but it cannot detect marijuana use.

And yes, we’re fully aware that recreational marijuana is legal in all our neighboring states - New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Maryland and Delaware - except for West Virginia. So legalization in Pennsylvania may be inevitable. But we still cannot endorse it.

Our objections remain the same as they were in 2020, when we last addressed this subject. They include the following:

- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, marijuana use could lead to increased risk of stroke, heart disease and other vascular diseases.

Moreover, people “who use marijuana are more likely to develop temporary psychosis (not knowing what is real, hallucinations, and paranoia) and long-lasting mental disorders. ... The association between marijuana and schizophrenia is stronger in people who start using marijuana at an earlier age and use marijuana more frequently.”

The CDC also notes that marijuana use has been linked to depression, social anxiety and suicide.

- Smoking marijuana damages a person’s lungs. According to the American Lung Association, “Marijuana smokers tend to inhale more deeply and hold their breath longer than cigarette smokers, which leads to a greater exposure per breath to tar.”

- Should marijuana be legalized, it would only be for adults age 21 and older. But, as we wrote in 2019, “we’re guessing that parents who don’t lock their liquor cabinets won’t lock away their weed. ... And if teens don’t get marijuana from their parents’ stashes, they’ll get it from older siblings. Obviously some teens are getting their hands on marijuana already. But why make it easier for them?”

According to the CDC, “Using marijuana before age 18 may affect how the brain builds connections for functions like attention, memory, and learning. Marijuana’s effects on attention, memory, and learning may last a long time or even be permanent, but more research is needed to fully understand these effects.”

We’d like to see research that reassures us that developing brains aren’t harmed irreparably by marijuana use.

Beyond the health implications, we’re disturbed by the instinct in Pennsylvania government to reach for quick fixes: Widen the availability of gambling. Legalize marijuana.

The Pennsylvania Legislature has failed to deliver substantive tax reform that would not only offer relief to older and overburdened property owners - beyond those who qualify for property tax rebates - but would remedy the revenue gaps between low-wealth and high-wealth school districts.

In our polarized state government, tax reform that would achieve those aims seems unattainable. So we understand the practicalities of turning to marijuana legalization. But there has to be a better way. We urge the governor and lawmakers willing to work across the aisle to find it.


This editorial briefly mentions suicide. If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs immediate help, contact the following organizations:

- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call or text 988 or chat at 988lifeline.org.

- Those who are deaf or hard of hearing can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline via TTY at 800-799-4889.