Former U.S. Marshal, Pennsylvania State Sen. Mike Regan Pushes Adult-Use Legalization
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Former U.S. Marshal, Pennsylvania State Sen. Mike Regan Pushes Adult-Use Legalization

The Republican chairman of the Law and Justice Committee is seeking co-sponsorship for legislation he plans to introduce in the commonwealth.

October 5, 2021

Pennsylvania state Sen. Mike Regan is a fiscal conservative with a law enforcement background of fighting crime and protecting families.

The Republican serving Cumberland and York counties is now adding cannabis legalization advocate to his track record. Regan, who chairs the Law and Justice Committee, is seeking co-sponsorship for his intent to introduce legislation legalizing adult-use cannabis in the commonwealth.

In an Oct. 4 op-ed, Regan said it may come to the consternation of some that he’s circulating a co-sponsorship memo for his legalization bill, specifically stating his 23-year background in law enforcement. But the former U.S. Marshal called adult-use legalization inevitable.

“For decades, marijuana has been used by adult residents in the state, but such use has financially benefitted and perpetuated organized crime, gangs and cartels,” Regan said in the statement.

Prior to his political endeavors—which includes serving two terms in the Pennsylvania House, before getting elected to the state Senate in 2016—Regan began his law enforcement career in 1988 as a member of the U.S. Marshals Service and ascended to the post of Fugitive Task Force Commander in 1995. In 2002, President George W. Bush nominated him to become the U.S. Marshal for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, where he served until his 2011 retirement. 

Although Regan’s sponsorship of an adult-use cannabis measure may come as a surprise to some, he took on medical cannabis reform efforts and voted in favor of establishing a medical cannabis program when he served in the Pennsylvania House.

“Recent years have also brought proven benefits of marijuana for health purposes, which has opened the door for legalization of adult-use marijuana,” he said. “In 2016, as a member of the House of Representatives, I was one of the architects of our medical marijuana program, and since its inception, we have seen over 500,000 residents enroll in the program. The lives of so many have changed with the safe use of medical marijuana.

“I want to build off the success of that program while ensuring its continued viability for the industry and its patients. I also want to make sure that Pennsylvanians receive their fair share from the sale of adult-use marijuana, not the cartels and gangs whose profits are comparable to Fortune 500 companies.”

With New Jersey and New York geared toward implementing adult-use cannabis programs (and Ohio advocates also making the push), Regan said those states will soon experience what he calls “border bleed” with Pennsylvanians contributing to the tax base of their neighbors to help pay for their roads and bridges.

Meanwhile, similarly populated states like Illinois and Michigan are on pace to exceed $1 billion in taxable adult-use sales in 2021.

“My legislation will direct revenues to cities fighting violent crimes, organizations providing after-school programs for youth in disadvantaged neighborhoods, and local law enforcement for the necessary equipment, training and education, so they can truly serve and protect residents and focus on combatting the illegal drug trade that is responsible for so much of the crime, destruction and death in our communities,” Regan said.

He also said his proposal will dedicate another portion of revenue directly to the Pennsylvania State Police, which would help rebuild the commonwealth’s Motor License Fund to help invest in statewide transportation infrastructure.

In addition to ensuring dedicated funding for law enforcement and communities, Regan said his proposal will:

  • Legalize adult-use cannabis for those 21 and older;
  • Establish a new regulatory control board;
  • Remove penalties for use and possession by adults;
  • Protect the commonwealth’s medical cannabis program;
  • Allow for the legal purchase and possession of firearms regardless of one’s choice to use cannabis;
  • Provide for social equity, inclusion and assistance for business entry into the industry;
  • Address DUI enforcement;
  • Develop education and deterrents for underage use and possession; and
  • Enhance Pennsylvania’s agricultural industry.

“For those questioning my sponsorship of such legislation, it is important to recognize that legalization of adult-use marijuana in Pennsylvania is inevitable,” Regan said. “As chairman of the Senate Law and Justice Committee and a former member of law enforcement, rather than sit idly by and allow others to shape the legislation, I am stepping up to be a leader on the issue, as I did on medical marijuana.”

Regan’s legislation will compete with a House Bill 2050, which Democratic Reps. Jake Wheatley and Dan Frankel formally filed Sept. 28.

In addition, Regan’s effort will compete with a bipartisan proposal made my Republican Sen. Dan Laughlin and Democratic Sen. Sharif Street in February, which has yet to be formally filed.

Bipartisan support for adult-use legislation would likely be needed for passage in the Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled Legislature. 

“And I am doing so using a common-sense, bipartisan, bicameral approach that will provide Pennsylvanians access to a safe product, create thousands of jobs, level the playing field with neighboring states, support law enforcement and our communities, and more importantly, defund the deadly drug cartels who have wreaked so much havoc on the commonwealth and our country for so many years,” Regan said.

2020 poll found 62% of likely voters in Pennsylvania favor legal, regulated cannabis sales for adults 21 and older. The survey was commissioned by the Pennsylvania Cannabis Coalition and conducted by Harper Polling.