Pennsylvania’s chief fiscal officer believes the time has come for the Keystone State to legalize, regulate and tax recreational marijuana, outlining in a Monday news conference how taking such a step would help solve the state’s imposing budgetary challenges.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale encouraged state lawmakers to consider opening Pennsylvania up to an industry projected to be worth $20 billion and employ more than 280,000 people in the next decade.

“I make this recommendation because it is a more sane policy to deal with a critical issue facing the state,” said DePasquale, a former Democratic state representative in York County. “Other states are already taking advantage of the opportunity for massive job creation and savings from reduced arrests and criminal prosecutions. In addition, it would generate hundreds of millions of dollars each year that could help tackle Pennsylvania’s budget problems.”

DePasquale pointed to Colorado as an example of a state that has reaped the rewards of marijuana legalization since voters approved the measure in 2012. With less than half the population of Pennsylvania, Colorado last year generated $129 million in tax revenue and $1 billion in marijuana sales from the new industry, which has created an estimated 18,000 jobs.

Source/Pa. House

Pennsylvania State Auditor Eugene DePasquale.

Seven other states—Alaska, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon and Washington—have also regulated and taxed marijuana in recent years, with similarly substantial increases in revenue where sufficient data is available.

“The revenue that could be generated would help address Pennsylvania’s revenue and spending issue. But there is more to this than simply tax dollars and jobs,” DePasquale said. “There is also social impact, specifically related to arrests, and the personal, emotional, and financial devastation that may result from such arrests.”

In Washington, D.C., where possession, use and growth of marijuana have been legal since

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