Pennsylvania’s governor is expected to sign a bill the legislature sent to his desk last week concerning the sale of vaping products.
The proposal would increase the legal age to buy them to 21 years old.
It shouldn’t really surprise you that a legislature that cannot seem to agree on anything in a timely manner — including, most notoriously, budgets — would be able to get a bill passed so quickly and so efficiently.
The measure is just another of those chip shots that are often the hallmarks of state legislatures (and honestly, Congress, too). When there is a no-brainer piece of legislation, it gets bipartisan and widespread support and a whole lot of positive publicity about how lawmakers are acting in the best interest of the citizenry.
But that is just a side note — another reason to think about how broken government is these days.
This time, they got it right. This rule is a good idea.
The impetus behind the measure is logical. The uncertainty around the dangers of vaping, and the continued concern about illnesses linked to it in young people, suggest that there absolutely is a reason to look harder at access.
We need fewer people using tobacco products or derivatives. And the age of majority is when you should be given the right to make the choice for your own life — not 16 or even 18.
So while there is not much to disagree with here, it brings up an interesting question.
There has been a lot of rumbling about approving the use of recreational marijuana in the commonwealth.
And we see just a bit of a parallel. Follow our logic.
While there is no question that the benefits of medical marijuana for some illnesses are significant and this is an area where there should be some leeway and some willingness to grant access to patients, there is not the same clarity with recreational marijuana.
Law enforcement officials are generally not convinced that legalization is a great idea. They say that marijuana is a gateway drug and that its recreational use can lead to much more serious addictions.
Their concern is probably fueled in great measure by the explosion of the opioid epidemic. They live the consequences of that every single day.
So let’s get back to our comparison.
We restrict vaping sales because of a danger we suspect, but can’t empirically prove — which is a sound decision.
Yet we go blundering into discussions about legalization of recreational marijuana when there are serious concerns about where such a vote might lead.
And just because we know it is coming, let’s deal with this argument: Legalization of marijuana is no different than the sale of alcohol.
The consequences of alcohol misuse in this country are significant. Alcohol addiction claims lives — and sometimes steals innocent ones — every single year. We are not going to prevent irresponsible use of alcohol. But why would we add another means that results in even more potential addiction, impaired driving and other more serious consequences?
Legalization of recreational marijuana is not an easy discussion — or an easy vote.
But before it gets the gubernatorial green light, someone, somewhere better get serious about making sure that the debate is about more than a new revenue source for the commonwealth.
This is not one of these feel-good, photo-ops all-around decisions.
And there are other considerations, too. We could look at minor possession sentences and the funds available for rehabilitation and addiction prevention.
The debate leading up to any vote on recreational marijuana should take up this issue and its potential consequences and benefits with the gravity and contemplation they command.
Making the wrong choice here could be costly — both in money and in lives.