“Because of demographics and exposure to other states, the opposition to this is going to melt away very quickly. We’ve already reached the tipping point.”
As the great state of Pennsylvania borders several states that have already begun to consider the marijuana legalization issue, and after watching the voters of Colorado and Washington introduce and passed marijuana reform. Pennsylvania policymakers, nervously wringing their hands — believe that it is finally time to put the ‘stoned‘ back in “The Keystone State.”
Pennsylvania Sen. Daylin Leach, a Dem from Montgomery and Delaware counties, publicized plans Tuesday to present legislation that would legalize pot in Pennsylvania.
Currently the Pennsylvania senator has two co-sponsors on the bill — Democrats from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh — and plans to introduce the bill within the next week for the 2013-14 legislative session.
Sen. Leach during the Legislature’s 2011-12 session introduced Senate Bill 1089 to create a medical marijuana program, but the measure did not make it out of committee.
Kevin Harley, spokesman for Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, said previously Corbett would veto any legalization bill, even for medical purposes.
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“He believes that smoking marijuana is a crime, should remain a crime and that marijuana is a gateway drug,” Harley said.
Of potential passage of his new bill, Leach said Tuesday: “It’s tough in the short-term. It’s inevitable in the long-term. Because of demographics and exposure to other states, the opposition to this is going to melt away very quickly. We’ve already reached the tipping point.”
Regulated like alcohol
Leach told The Express-Times his bill would permit people 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow six plants at a time.
“At least initially it would be sold at state (liquor) stores and beer distributors,” Leach said.
It would continue to be illegal to drive under the influence of cannabis, and employers could continue prohibiting its use by employees, he proposes.
Leach said he would leave taxation for a future Legislature.
“Clearly it would be at least hundreds of millions of dollars in Pennsylvania saved and hundreds of millions more brought in as revenue to help pay for things like roads and schools and bridges and a safety net and all of that,” he said.
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Leach admitted to having smoked marijuana in high school during the 1970s and college but said he is a vegetarian and runner who does not smoke and rarely uses alcohol.
Despite the move toward legalization and medical marijuana — 18 states and the District of Columbia permit medicinal use — a backlash is growing.
Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy has joined former President George W. Bush’s speechwriter David Frum and former White House drug policy adviser Kevin Sabet in launching Project SAM — for “smart approaches to marijuana.” The organization argues the U.S. can cure the ills of pot prohibition, such as racial disparities in who gets busted and the lifelong stigma that can come with a conviction, without legalizing the drug.
Low-level marijuana offenders should pay a fine, not go to prison, Kennedy said, but it’s a bad idea to make pot more accessible: More people will experiment, including young people whose still-developing brains seem to be most susceptible to addiction. He said he fears the creation of a huge marijuana industry targeting teens the way the tobacco industry did.
N.J. bill pending
In New Jersey, a bill in the Legislature fits the mold of Kennedy’s proposal in that it would decriminalize possession of 15 grams or less of marijuana, though users would still face fines.
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The New Jersey bill, A1465, passed the Assembly in June and is before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Assembly representatives — all Republicans — in the 16th, 23rd and 24th Legislative Districts covering Warren and Hunterdon counties all voted against the bill.
New Jersey’s bill was co-sponsored by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, who also co-sponsored the bill that created the state’s medical marijuana program. The Greenleaf Compassion Center opened Dec. 6 in Montclair Township, New Jersey’s first medical marijuana dispensary.
Gusciora’s decriminalization bill says anyone possessing 15 grams — about half an ounce — or less of marijuana would face fines of $150 for a first offense, $200 for a second and $500 for third and subsequent violations. Possessing drug paraphernalia would carry a $100 fine. The measure would apply $50 of each fine to a drug education fund.
According to a fiscal analysis by the state Judiciary, the measure would reduce the number of people sent to state prison. The analysis puts the annual cost per inmate at $43,000 but says savings would be closer to $2,887 per year until the inmate population is reduced enough to the point prisons could be closed.
Source – LeHigh Valley Live