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Legalize Marijuana, Pa. Senator Says

A Montgomery County state Senator wants to legalize marijuana in Pennsylvania and sell it alongside alcohol in the state-run liquor stores.

By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent

HARRISBURG – State Sen. Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery often compares Pennsylvania’s marijuana laws to the alcohol prohibition laws of the early 20th century.

He says it’s a culture war that one day will end. Maybe sooner than one might think.

“I’m sure that in 10 years, we will look back on prohibition as a quaint relic of the past,” Leach said.

Leach, one of the state’s most progressive lawmakers, introduced legislation to legalize marijuana use for adults age 21 and older. Leach’s legislation envisions marijuana sold alongside alcohol in state liquor stores and beer distributors, with production, distribution and sale regulated in a similar way as alcohol.

Should marijuana be legalized in Pa.? Tell us in the comments section below. You can also take vote in our poll and check out the poll vote totals.

Leach made the social and economic case for marijuana legalization at a Monday afternoon news conference, where he said that keeping marijuana illegal makes criminals out of people who “smoke a plant.”

Leach said keeping marijuana illegal is irrational on several levels, comparing it to alcohol and tobacco that can be deadly but are legal. Marijuana, conversely, is prescribed medically in 18 states.

“Like the original prohibition, the prohibition of marijuana has resulted in damages far in excess of what the actual substance we’re controlling could ever do,” he said. “This is a cruel, irrational policy that we’ve had for 75 years without revisiting.”

But in Pennsylvania – especially this session – Leach’s idea is little more than a pipe dream.

Janet Kelley, deputy director of communications for Gov. Tom Corbett, said he would not sign a bill legalizing marijuana.

“Governor Corbett has personally witnessed the devastation of illegal drugs on Pennsylvania communities throughout his career,” Kelley said in an email to PA Independent. “He does not believe that loosening restrictions on illegal drugs is in the interest of public safety.”

Leach said that he didn’t think it was rational for the governor to “keep people in prison or threat of prison for marijuana” while offering up a proposal to increase the number of places that can sell alcohol, referring to Corbett’s latest liquor privatization push.

Leach said the administration is leaving millions of dollars on the table.

The state spends about $325 million a year prosecuting nearly 25,000 marijuana arrests, according federal statistics from 2006. If the drug were legalized, Leach said they would not only save that money, but make additional millions from taxing marijuana — at least $25 million a year, he said.

Opponents to legalization point out that social costs could outweigh the benefits. The Office of National Drug Control Policy compares the situation to alcohol, which they say costs more than it takes in.

“Federal excise taxes collected on alcohol in 2007 totaled around $9 billion; states collected around $5.5 billion,” reads the federal government fact sheet on legalization. “Combined, these amounts are less than 10 percent of the estimated $185 billion in alcohol‐related costs to health care, criminal justice, and the workplace in lost productivity.”

The office bolsters the drug’s danger by citing negative effects of marijuana as “dependence, respiratory and mental illness, poor motor performance, and impaired cognitive and immune system functioning.”

Leach doesn’t necessarily have public opinion on his side. The latest Franklin and Marshall College poll found that 55 percent of polled Pennsylvania voters oppose marijuana legalization, compared to 36 percent in support.

However, legalization marijuana for medical use has widespread bipartisan support. The poll found 82 percent of polled voters “strongly” or somewhat” favor allowing adults to use marijuana if a doctor recommends it. About 76 percent of polled voters said the same in 2006. The poll surveyed 622 Pennsylvania voters between Jan. 29 and Feb. 3, with a margin of error of 3.9 percentage points.

Terry Madonna, executive director of the Center for Politics and Public Opinion at the college, called the support “overwhelming.” But without any real legislative push, the concept wouldn’t go far.

“To do this it take the leadership from the Legislature and the governor to endorse it,” he said, “and I haven’t heard that to be the case.”

Leach said while he supports medical marijuana proposals, he does not think that solves the problem of “marijuana prohibition.”

Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the Washington, D.C.,-based National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, has lobbied on behalf of state and federal policy changes for decades.

He said seeing a legalization proposal pop up in Pennsylvania was surprising, but that it’s happening more and more — especially since voters in Washington state and Colorado approved legalization in a referendum in the November 2012 election.

“We did not have the commonwealth of Pennsylvania on our radar scope at all,” St. Pierre said. “We think that’s indicative of how politically salient the issue for marijuana reform is today.”

Ten states have legalization bills pending, compared to one state five years ago, St.Pierre said. And a federal discussion began on Capitol Hill last week with pro-marijuana proposals from Reps. Jared Polis, D-Colo., and Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.

Their bills would create federal laws regulating production and retail sale for marijuana in states that have already legalization consumption for medical or recreational uses.

“Mr. Leach may be slightly ahead of the curve in Pennsylvania, but he’s pretty much on the curve nationally,” St. Pierre said.

Contact Melissa Daniels at melissa@paindependent.com

Blackdemon February 15, 2013 at 12:54 PM
It is still going to be Federally illegal, so it really doesn't matter. I work in the peoples Republic of Jersey were they have medical marijuana. My company told us, if we flunk a random piss test a prescription makes no difference. National drug free work place make it illegal. Although you can take mind altering antidepressants with a prescription. Makes sense to me????????????????????
My 2 Cents February 15, 2013 at 12:54 PM
I'm sure the number that need it for REAL medical use would be much smaller than those that would try to abuse it.
Russ Fiddy February 15, 2013 at 12:55 PM
Yet all of these things you mention Sheriff cell phones and alcohol are perfectly legal. Of course with viable restrictions- personal responsibility and the law rightly dictates not while driving just as it is, should, and would be with Cannabis legalization. Which by the way is far less distracting than the former two. Also let's face it there are already people on the roadways doing all three. Unfortunately, there will always be irresponsibility and there are rational laws on the books to deal with it DUI, loss of driving privilege, fines for texting and driving etc... Reconsider your position sir we need folks like you committed to keeping people safe we don't need laws that destroy the lives of people that can contribute to society rather than rotting behind bars
FlyingTooLow February 15, 2013 at 01:08 PM
@ Russ Fiddy... Great post, Sir...many thanks. It's time to end this fiasco. Quit playing this stupid game. We are free Americans. Not some children to be coddled and told about 'the boogey man.' Anyone in the United States with half a brain sees what a horrible hoax has been carried on since 1937. Stop locking people up for a plant that could possibly save the US economy. Not to mention its medicinal values. We may be on the cusp of huge breakthroughs in the field of medicine ...completely unlike 'big pharma' who have been killing thousands of our citizens per year.
FlyingTooLow February 15, 2013 at 01:15 PM
When I was in, the entire Federal Prison population was just over 28,000. Drug offenders made up 53% of that number. I see today that population has risen to over 218,000. Prison is big business. It used to be called 'slavery.'
FlyingTooLow February 15, 2013 at 01:27 PM
@ sybilla lestrange... Well said.
FlyingTooLow February 15, 2013 at 02:25 PM
@ Mean Mom...another testimonial: I copied the below comment from another website. I think the American veteran who wrote this sums it up very well: "I am a disabled Army Veteran and smoke marijuana strictly for medical purposes. I never smoked before I broke my back in the military and it hasen't been a gateway to anything. I started smoking because of my cauda equina syndrome. I had a herniated disk in my lower back that compressed the nerves at the lower end of my spine (cauda equina nerves). The doctors couldn't prevent permanent damage, so I am left with permanent pain that is so severe that it leads to vomiting on a consistant basis without my medacine (marijuana). The doctors prescribed me morphine, oxycodone, oxymorphone, oxycotton, hydromorphone, hydrocodone, etc... All of the above named meda... cines made me useless, I hardly knew what was happening around me. On top of that, they didnt help with the pain or the vomiting from the pain. I felt like bugs were crawling under my skin. After complaining about this for a while, friends and family handed me cannabis. I was reluctant at first, due to the stigma that goes along with it. After I gave it a try, I realized that it was far and away a better solution than any of the above named DRUGS. I had none of the issues with cannabis that I had with all those other PHARMACEUTICAL DRUGS. I can function and carry on with my life. Marijuana has made me a better person and a far more functional parent and husband."
Ladythoughtz February 15, 2013 at 02:29 PM
The two most dangerous drugs thats killing people everyday is alcohol n cigarettes n their legal marijuana doesn't effect u in anyway but makes u want to eat n it's illegal this gov is sick n things needs to change
FlyingTooLow February 15, 2013 at 02:39 PM
@ Ladythoughtz... The closest I have ever seen marijuana come to harming anyone was during an air drop. We brought in 1100 pounds from Jamaica and dropped it in a peanut field in middle Georgia. The bales were dropped from a small plane at 125 feet altitude. One of the bales, about 80 pounds, missed my compadre by only a few feet... but it surely messed up his truck.
My 2 Cents February 15, 2013 at 03:52 PM
Well Ladythoughts it has been proven in both the US and Australia that people who do it under the age of 17 go on to addictions to harder drugs and/or alcohol. I know I am going to get comments that 17 and under shouldn't be doing it anyway, but we can say that about alcohol and smoking, but some kids still do. If adults in their home have this around it could be much easier for some kids to get hooked and go down a bad path in life. I know I'm a minority here in my view of this issue, but I think that is something worth mentioning.
Legalize not Criminalize February 15, 2013 at 05:51 PM
I've been red green color blind since as far back as I can remember I never thought anything about it though growing up because that's how I saw colors it wasn't until I was 9 when my one teacher had a feeling something wasn't quite right with me and colors so I took a ishahara test and found out I am red green deficient and was told that there is no cure and I will be partly color blind the rest of my life. Receptors in my eyes cannot properly put colors together which makes colors look like other colors or I just cannot simply tell what color it is. If you hold a green and brown or red and pink or blue and purples of similar tone I can't tell the difference. Here is where we bring in Marijuana. I've been smoking this simple plant for just about 5 years now regularly. I started to notice some different variations in certain colors mostly brown, green, red, pink, purple and some shades of blues that looked more vibrant and that I coul tell them apart more easily! Awesome! But how? Why is this drug illegal? It's less harmful than a glass of water... I say less because you can drown in water. You can't die from Marijuana. It's not physically possible. But yet it's still a schedule 1 narcotic. This is bullshit, pardon my French. Just an outraged citized who physically saw the benefits from marijuana first hand, literally.
FlyingTooLow February 15, 2013 at 06:07 PM
@ Legalize not Criminalize... This is something you may want to share with other websites...anything to do with sight or color blindness. Terrific story...I hope your sight continues to improve.
Jeepers63 February 15, 2013 at 07:27 PM
As tho there isn't enough problems with the drug called alcohol. Now your going to add 'pot'? Now the kids can be drunk, be high on pot & text while driving. But hey, don't smoke tobacco.
Mike February 15, 2013 at 08:51 PM
@jeepers63 why doe it always come down to diving high? I'd much rather see someone driving high then drunk. Not that I agree with it but its true. You can fully function on pot and possibly act better on it.
Mike February 15, 2013 at 08:52 PM
Does*
Mike February 15, 2013 at 08:57 PM
It's not going to be legal as much as we all want it to be. It would make way to much sense for are gov to deal with. Why put millions back in are state and make everyone happy ? No way that's to much thinking for us
Jeepers63 February 16, 2013 at 02:42 AM
Research.... I did that for 18 yrs. First it was beer, then beer & pot or just pot, then beer & speed (meth.) All drugs, including alcohol are mind altering, it's that simple. You can not fully function on being high on pot, unless your always sitting on your sofa & how many are gonna do that. I have been sober & clean now for 28+ yrs. & I wouldn't want to live my life any other way.
Jeepers63 February 16, 2013 at 02:45 AM
Something is either legal or it isn't.
Jucy J February 16, 2013 at 05:22 AM
Fucking do it already !!
FlyingTooLow February 16, 2013 at 03:25 PM
@ Russ Fiddy... A million thanks for your post on my blog. My e address is on the copyright pages of both of my books. Shoulda Robbed a Bank Welcome to Prison-Enjoy Your Stay I hope to hear from you, Hugh Yonn
jindov February 16, 2013 at 05:45 PM
Using Marijuana is as harmless as whistling and yet getting caught can ruin your life. This benign plant has been used by mankind for millennia and yet because of one misguided American president, Richard M Nixon possession is a federal offense. We all know how things worked out for him but his legacy remains. Alcohol is the single most destructive drug that mankind indulges in. It promotes aggression and destructive behavior while conferring absolutely no benefit. It also wrecks your liver, wrecks your marriage and distorts your judgment and perception of reality like no other substance. Pot does none of that. Being high is not being drunk and for those of you who posit this false equivalency, you're just wrong. I've never seen pot wreck a marriage. If anything, it's a sedative that relaxes, reduces pain and promotes creativity. We could use a lot more pot smokers and a lot fewer drunks. The world will be fundamentally different if that were to occur.
FlyingTooLow February 16, 2013 at 06:33 PM
@ jindov... Great comment. Thank you.
Jeepers63 February 16, 2013 at 07:37 PM
Not everyone reacts the same way when drunk or stoned. You can't say being stoned isn't going to ruin a relationship. First it's pot that can ruin a life, besides the getting caught part.
Salvatore J Cucinotta, Esq. February 16, 2013 at 08:38 PM
GET THE THUGS OUT OF DRUGS.
PANDORASBOXX March 30, 2013 at 03:47 PM
I CAN TELL U RIGHT NOW FROM EXPERIENCE THAT I AND EVERYONE ELSE ARE MUCH SAFER DRIVING AFTER SMOKING A JOINT THAN WHEN I HANG OUT IN THE BAR FOR THE EVENING!
kelly brown April 04, 2013 at 04:20 PM
theres ALWAYS one idiotic person that has to give the "what if" .... honestly its 2013- get it together!!! marijuana is in NO MEANS a physically addictive drug- and the commercials of high drivers running children over on their bike is 1 in a million... less likely than you overdosing on your pharmaceuticals or too much alcohol- anyone that says not to legalize it, is highly biased and/or insanely jealous that their body cant handle being stoned... pisses me off
FlyingTooLow April 04, 2013 at 04:28 PM
@ kelly brown... Well said.
Matt Lokoed Tilted June 19, 2013 at 03:06 PM
cdc has no group on overdoses from weed , when yet last year over 20,000 died from alchohal ... + alot more prescripton pill deaths then alchoal ... pills have very bad side effects... example respridal making guys grow tits and laxtate...only side effect of weed is getting hungry ... so would u rather have yur son squirting milk from his nipples or rampaging threw the fridge? ...
Jeffrey Poor June 22, 2013 at 05:44 PM
LEGALIZE!! THIS IS SUPPOSE TO BE HOME OF THE FREE... SO STOP TAKING AWAY ALL OF OUR RIGHTS!! GIVE US OUR FREEDOM OF CHOICE!!

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