HARRISBURG, PA — A bill introduced in Harrisburg to legalize and regulate marijuana similar to alcohol received an endorsement by the Pennsylvania Chapter of the NAACP Tuesday.
The bill 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.
Leach and other sponsors of his bill hope to see a committee hearing on the measure in the fall.
Sen. Leach, who is currently running for the United States House of Representatives, welcomed the group’s support at a Tuesday press conference.
“This is decimating the minority community. This is a problem that is particularly acute,” said Senator Leach.
“The war on drugs is a catastrophic failure,” said David Scott, chair of the Legal Redress Committee for the Cheltenham Area Branch of the NAACP and a former deputy chief of police.
A recent report released by the ACLU, The War on Marijuana: In Black and White, revealed that Pennsylvania was one of the worst states when it came to racial disparities in marijuana arrests.
According to their data, an African American in Pennsylvania is over five times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white Pennsylvanians, despite using at similar rates.
Pennsylvania spends about $350 million a year on arrests, incarceration and monitoring of individuals found to be in possession of small amounts of marijuana, according to Leach.
“We could tax this and gain revenue — that’s hundreds of millions of dollars each year,” Leach said, adding that the revenue could go toward helping public education, fixing roads and providing tax cuts to job creators.
The bill has two official co-sponsors, Sen. Larry Farnese (D-Philadelphia) and Sen. Jim Ferlo (D-Allegheny), although Leach says several other lawmakers have approached him privately to express their support.
“My belief is if this bill was put up to a secret ballot, it would pass,” he said. “The Senate doesn’t look for controversy. Few people have said it’s a bad idea. They said it’s politically difficult.”