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Kenney: Sell weed in state liquor stores

Philly mayor says it would weaken "underground" market and provide a tax base for education.

Mayor Jim Kenney

(Charles Mostoller)

Is it red wine that pairs best with a bong or white?

Either way, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney said in an interview on Wednesday that he believes locals should be able to find out for themselves by being allowed to purchase recreational marijuana at state-run liquor stores.

Talking with WHYY radio host Marty Moss-Coane's "Radio Times," the mayor argued for the sale of recreational marijuana at state stores as a way to not only allow the state to access and control funds that are now spent on the “underground” market for marijuana, but also as a way to raise needed funding for Pennsylvania’s education system. The proposal might even ensure teenagers have a more difficult time obtaining the drug, he said.

RELATED: Philly state rep. hoping for some pot luck with weed proposal

“In the end though, it makes no sense for me that we are a state that licenses, promotes, sells and taxes alcohol in a closed state store system and somehow we continue making cannabis a criminal activity,” Kenney said on the radio show. “To me, we have the perfect system to set up the legal, recreational use of cannabis. There’s a controlled state system, allowing the state to capture all that income that is now going to the underground, to pay for schools.”

Marijuana legalization advocates estimate Pennsylvania could see $1 billion a year in revenue if it was legalized.

Kenney argued that selling pot in liquor stores would allow the state to gain additional funding without needing to raise income taxes — or raise any taxes, for that matter — while providing needed funding for Pennsylvania’s educational system.

“This is a new source of revenue that people are doing now,” he said. “We can bring it above-board and sell it in state stores.”

RELATED: In Philly, stoners holiday is accepted but untaxed

Not only will the state then gain taxes on a source of revenue that is sold on the black market and untaxed, Kenney said that by selling the drug at liquor stores — with already strict regulations against providing alcohol to anyone underaged — the state can ensure that only adults can obtain the drug.

“I think that’s the safest way to do it. I think that adults will be able to buy it and we will be able to eliminate the underground criminal element of this,” he said.

Kenney isn’t the first local politician to float this idea. In the past year, Jordan Harris, state representative for West Philly’s 168th district, proposed a bill that would allow the sale of cannabis in the state’s liquor stores, as did state Sen. Daylin Leach — who proposed a similar bill in 2013, and reintroduced it again in 2015.

Wendell Young IV, president of UFCW Local 1776, which represents about 3,500 state store workers, previously told Metro his members would be happy to sell marijuana if it were legal.

“We have a highly trained staff to handle what is the most abused drug in the nation, alcohol. They’ll do just as excellent a job handling marijuana,” Young said. “Everything’s already in place. You’re just selling a different product.”

However, both bills are currently stalled in Harrisburg.