Saturday, February 6, 2016

Montco lawmaker seeks sponsors for bill to legalize pot

Washington. Colorado. Pennsylvania?

Montco lawmaker seeks sponsors for bill to legalize pot

Supporters of the repeal of federal marijuana prohibition laws rally at Independence Mall on Dec. 15, 2012. In an act of civil disobedience, many chose to light joints at 4:20 p.m. disregarding police presence nearby. ( Hillary Petrozziello / )

Washington. Colorado. Pennsylvania?

A Democratic lawmaker from Montgomery County plans to introduce a bill making marijuana use legal in Pennsylvania.

What is Sen. Daylin Leach smoking, you might ask?

Common sense, he says.

Buoyed by the legalization of marijuana by voters in Washington and Colorado in the November election, Leach is circulating a memo seeking co-sposors for his bill to make pot legal in the commonwealth.

To Leach, the war on drugs, as it relates to marijuana is a waste of money and makes criminals out of otherwise law abiding citizens.

In Pennsylvania alone, there were 24,685 arrests for marijuana possession since 2006, according to the office of National Drug Control Policy.

That means $325 million to prosecute, incarcerate and disrupt the lives of thousands of people whose only crime, says Leach, "was smoking a plant which made them feel a bit giddy."

But could it happen in the socially conservative Pennsylvania legislature, where even medical marijuana legislation can't find its way out of committee let alone become law as it has in 19 states?

"I acknowledge that it may take a while," said Leach. "But like same-sex marriage, this will inevitably happen. Demographics and exposure will in time defeat irrational fears, old wives tales and bad science. This bill furthers the discussion, which hastens the day."

Leach said persecuting marijuana users is foolish, ill-conceived, costly and destructive policy must end.

His bill, he said, will remove the possession, use, and regulated sale of marijuana from the purview of our state's criminal justice system and legalize the consumption of marijuana for adults.

Leach adds the state could benefit from hundreds of millions in taxes on a product that continues to be trafficked underground.

Provisions of the legislation would include that marijuana be a regulated product, treated in a way similar to how alcohol is treated. It will be sold legally only in either state stores or beer distributors.

It still would be illegal to:

- Operate of motor vehicles under the influence of marijuana

- Possess narijuana if you are under the age of 21 or for an adult to sell it to a minor.

- It would be illegal to resell marijuana, as it is illegal to resell alcohol in Pennsylvania today.

- It would be illegal in public places - as alcohol is - and employers may prohibit its use on their property.

Said Leach: "It is time for Pennsylvania to be a leader in jettisoning this modern-day prohibition, and ending a policy that has been so destructive, costly, and anti-scientific."






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Commonwealth Confidential gives you regularly updated coverage of the state legislature, the governor and the workings of the state bureaucracy. It is written by Angela Couloumbis in the Inquirer's Harrisburg bureau, based in the statehouse, and by the newspaper's far-flung campaign reporters.

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