Legalize weed, says Dem Pa. gubernatorial candidate

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File photo: John Hanger, Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former state Department of Environmental Protection secretary. (David Swanson/Staff)

Pennsylvania should allow the medical use of marijuana, reduce penalties for possession of small amounts of weed and look to legalize the drug by 2017, according to a proposal by John Hanger, Democratic candidate for governor.

Hanger said the staged approach to legalizing pot would help reduce prison overcrowding, ease the problem of racial disparity in drug arrests and save millions of dollars.

“Right now, Pennsylvania is spending $325 million a year processing non-violent people through our criminal justice system for the offense of possessing marijuana,” Hanger said in a statement. “We’re arresting about 25,000 each year for possession of marijuana, and unfortunately African-Americans are arrested far more frequently than whites – 5.14 times more frequently. We’re branding people as drug criminals for possession of small amounts of marijuana, and that alone can ruin lives.”

Nationally, 46 percent of all drug arrests involve marijuana, Hanger said, and 88 percent of those are for possession rather than trafficking.

“It’s time to stop wasting money and clogging our criminal justice system with non-violent people whose only offense is possession of small amounts of marijuana,” said Hanger. “I’m proposing smart, safe and compassionate reforms of our marijuana laws.”

 Here is Hanger’s position paper on weed.

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