Montco state senator studies, and samples, marijuana in Colorado

State Sen. Daylin Leach (D., Montgomery) went on a state-funded tour of Colorado's marijuana industry last week, in preparation for what he hopes could be the upcoming legalization of medical pot in Pennsylvania.  A natural part of that fact-finding mission, Leach said, was sampling the goods.

"We hear a lot that, 'Oh no, you can't legalize it because the potency is so much stronger now,' " Leach said in an interview Friday.  So he thought, "We probably should try this while we're here."

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State Sen. Daylin Leach.

On the last night of the trip, Leach said, he took two puffs of a vaporizor pen (similar to an e-cigarette) -- "much less than I would have smoked in high school" -- and stopped before "I became uncomfortable or dysfunctional in some way."  After that, the senator and his staff went to dinner, which was "remarkably good," and giggled a little bit before heading to bed.

Earlier on the trip, Leach had toured marijuana growing and processing plants, dispensaries and the streets of Denver to observe how legal marijuana is affecting the state.

"The bottom line," Leach wrote in an Op-Ed published in the York Daily Record, "is that we saw a system that is working."

Leach writes that the system is well-regulated and enforced, and bringing "astronomical" economic benefits to the state of Colorado.  "Crime is down and traffic accidents are down," he writes, and "there is no noticeable change in productivity, absences from work or dropping out of school."

The three-day trip for Leach and three staffers cost about $5,000 and came out of his Senate office funds, he said. The vapor cigarette came in a gift bag from one of the dispensaries, he said.

"I think we should, if anything, be doing this far more often. In private enterprise they do it, in other states they do it." Leach said of the trip. "The stakes are so high ... we should have people on the ground to understand what the impacts are going to be."

The trip also revealed some areas where his own medical marijuana bill -- SB 1182, co-sponsored by Sen. Mike Folmer (R., Lebanon) -- needed improvement.

"Since dosage has to be precise, the strain has to be precise … you have to have an extremely extensive testing protocol," Leach said. "Frankly far more sophisticated than my bill is, so we will have to make some changes to that."

The medical marijuana bill is slated for a Senate vote in September, and Leach said he has the votes to pass it.

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