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Warren County DA says office doesn’t ‘pursue’ marijuana cases

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(The Center Square) — Pennsylvania’s recreational marijuana prohibition recently inspired one county election official to not seek re-election.

And, during an interview with The Center Square, Warren County District Attorney Rob Greene said prosecuting violations of the ban weren’t worth the office’s time.

Public safety isn’t threatened by legalization, he argued. Instead, law enforcement should focus on bigger threats.

“Hard drugs are the No. 1 problem in the criminal justice system,” Greene said. “We’re not going to incarcerate our way out of this problem.”

That ranking, he argued, is common across district attorneys in Pennsylvania; instead of going after heroin, Warren County has a drug task force as “the main hammer that we use to get drugs off the street.”

“We are very active and vigorous in getting meth, fentanyl, heroin — we do not pursue marijuana cases,” Greene said.

Greene announced earlier this month that he will not seek a fourth term in office as he revealed that he obtained a medical marijuana card. Due to federal law, Greene had to forfeit his license to carry a firearm to the county sheriff days after his announcement.

Greene plans to serve until his term ends in December 2025. He admitted to being a lifelong marijuana user, though he said he did not partake during his time as district attorney or during his military service.

He says the marijuana prohibition puts the public in legal trouble for a substance that’s safer than alcohol.

“Marijuana legalization is coming,” Greene said. “I would bet the farm on that.”

Legislative debates over marijuana have continued as all of Pennsylvania’s neighbors, except for West Virginia, has legalized recreational use, with Ohio voting to do so in November. Though polls have shown a majority of voters support the commonwealth following suit, political hangups remain due to safety concerns and conflicting with federal law.

In December, the House Transportation Committee voted to advance a bill to clarify that medical users would not be punished with DUIs; current law classifies them as impaired if they have any trace of marijuana in them, even though it can linger in users for weeks.

It’s legal issues like that, Greene said, that drove him to go public with his use.

“The main reason I’ve stood up and taken this risk and basically put a target on myself is because the million (marijuana medical card holders) in Pennsylvania have lost their firearm rights,” he said. “They also can also be guilty of a DUI if they’re driving — both those things are completely wrong.”

Second Amendment issues have been a longstanding concern for Republicans wary of legalization. The district attorney’s advocacy may bring some clarity to the issue: Greene plans to file a lawsuit over the revocation of his license to carry.

Though some may be surprised that a rural Republican would support legalization, Greene argued the roadblocks to legalization lie elsewhere.

“I think the holdup is not rural Pennsylvania — if there’s a poster child for conservative Pennsylvania, Warren County is it,” Greene said. “The overwhelming majority of people, I believe, are supporting what I’m doing.”

Instead, partisan divides drive a wedge.

“The reason for the holdup is the fact that Democrats and Republicans just can’t get along and no one wants to stick their head out,” he said. “It all boils down to money and politics.”

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