Legalizing pot worth discussion

There’s nothing wrong with the “serious and honest look” at legalizing recreational marijuana in Pennsylvania that Gov. Tom Wolf has proposed.

“Taking a look” wouldn’t obligate the Keystone State to pursue the legalization. That study would merely identify the pros and cons tied to legalization and consider the experiences of states that already allow recreational use of the substance.

Ten states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational use, and New York and New Jersey could be the next two states to do so. Meanwhile, a poll by Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster in 2017 found that 59 percent of those Pennsylvania residents surveyed supported marijuana-use legalization.

It’s reasonable to suggest that most people of conservative central Pennsylvania would be strongly opposed to the legalization, but that shouldn’t be a reason for refusing to examine the issue closely.

Considering that Wolf’s study proposal represents just a suggestion, it can be said that the initial reaction of state Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre — dubbing Wolf’s proposal “reckless and irresponsible” — was an overreaction that didn’t need to be voiced at this time.

Wolf hasn’t indicated that he plans to make legalization a priority of his second term. However, he wasn’t wrong in calling himself a realist by noticing what’s happening in other states.

Pennsylvania often is at the proverbial tail end of the pack on new initiatives.

The fate of the question will rest not only with legislative leaders and the governor, but also with state residents, who should already be starting to indicate their preference, now that the governor has brought the issue to the forefront.

It must be noted that Wolf’s suggestion marks somewhat of a shift from what he’s said previously about the issue. Previously, Wolf said he would want to study the experience of states where recreational marijuana is legal before deciding whether to support it.

His position now seems to be on the side of legalization.

Wolf wasn’t wrong in saying that Pennsylvania can’t just duck its head into the sand and say things aren’t happening. But Corman was right to remind the governor and state residents that marijuana long has been regarded as a “gateway drug to other illegal substances.”

Additional concerns about marijuana being a mind-altering narcotic are good cause for Pennsylvania to move slowly and carefully, no matter what conclusions Wolf’s “serious and honest look” might reach eventually, if that study comes to pass.

Legalization of recreational marijuana didn’t occur in any state until Colorado and Washington legalized it in 2012, although support for legalization has existed for decades.

Part of the argument favoring legalization always has been that recreational marijuana subject to taxation would generate more state revenue and cut down on criminal justice costs.

Wolf didn’t indicate that he would try to create a process for a formal study anytime soon, or call on lawmakers to do so, but it’s reasonable to believe that could change over the next four years.

It’s not unreasonable for informal discussion regarding the topic — based on facts not hysteria — even if no formal action is likely in the near future, or ever.