HARRISBURG, PA — Senator Daylin Leach’s long anticipated bill to legalize and regulate marijuana in Pennsylvania has been formally introduced at the State House.
“This past November, the people of Washington State and Colorado voted to fully legalize marijuana,” said Leach. “It is time for Pennsylvania to be a leader in jettisoning this modern-day prohibition, and ending a policy that has been destructive, costly and anti-scientific.”
“Demographics and exposure will in time defeat irrational fears, old wives tales and bad science,” Leach continued. “This bill furthers the discussion, which hastens the day.”
Approximately 25,000 citizens are arrested annually in Pennsylvania for marijuana-related offenses, at a cost of some $325 million dollars.
Senate Bill 528, the Regulate Marijuana Act, would allow adults 21 and over to grow up to six plants and possess the resulting harvest. It would also allow adults to transfer up to an ounce to other adults.
The proposed bill would also direct the state to come up with a system to regulate and tax marijuana commerce. The bill includes safeguards to protect against driving under the influence of cannabis, and youth awareness and prevention measures.
“Cops see the ineffectiveness and harms of marijuana prohibition up close, every day,” said Neill Franklin, a retired Baltimore narcotics cop and the executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
“Keeping marijuana illegal doesn’t significantly reduce use, but it does give tax-free profits to violent gangs and cartels that control the black market. Now, thanks to Sen. Leach’s proposal, Pennsylvania has a chance to join Colorado and Washington in letting police focus on the job we signed up to do — keeping the public safe — instead of being distracted by chasing down marijuana users.”
“NORML applauds Sen. Leach for taking this important step forward to end the failed policy of marijuana prohibition in his state. Pennsylvania has long been considered a bellwether state that sets the precedent for politics across the country, as such it is both exciting and encouraging to see the Keystone State take up this crucial dialogue,” said Erik Altieri, Communications Director for NORML.
“Marijuana prohibition costs the state of Pennsylvania over $300 million a year in enforcement costs and tens of millions a year in lost potential tax revenue, while doing little to keep the substance out of the hands of children or lower use rates. It is time for a new policy that works for the state and its people. We encourage all of Sen. Leach’s colleagues in Harrisburg to join him in this call for rational marijuana laws.”
It could be an uphill battle. Leach spent the last two sessions trying to get medical marijuana bills passed, to no avail, and that was with strong public support for medical marijuana. A recent Franklin and Marshall College poll had support for medical marijuana at 82%, but support for legalization at only 36%. That’s up 14 points from 2006, but still well below majority support.
The bill has been referred to the Senate Law and Justice Committee.