Pubdate: Sun, 18 Nov 2012
Source: News-Item, The (PA)
Copyright: 2012 The News Item
Author: Rob Wheary


A Philadelphia lawyer and a Shamokin area mother are among those who 
favor Pennsylvania taking the same steps that Colorado and Washington 
did when voters on Nov. 6 approved the legalization of small amounts 
of marijuana.

They believe regulation is still required, but believe legalizing pot 
could generate government revenue and help police concentrateon more 
serious crimes.

"Lawmakers hate to use the unpopular term 'tax', but if it were 
legalized, like other vices in the state are, it would be a great 
help," said Daniel-Paul Alva, a former assistant district attorney in 
Philadelphia and a member of LawEnforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).

The organization is comprised of former prosecutors and police 
officers who believe the 40-plus year war on drugs has been an 
incredibly expensive, destructive failure, and needs to end.

"You have the police and the courts, both of whom have limited 
budgets, spending their resources with negative results, instead of 
going after the more serious crimes going on in the world," Alva said.

Asurvey earlier this year by the Rasmussen Reports showed that 56 
percent of likely voters now favor legalizing and regulating 
marijuana in a similar manner to the way alcohol and tobacco 
cigarettes are regulated.

Also, LEAP points to an FBI report showing more than 750,000 
marijuana arrests and more than 1.5 million total drug arrests in 
2011. That equates to one drug arrest every 21 seconds, with almost 
half of them for marijuana. The report also showed that 81.8 percent 
of drug arrests were for possession only.

Son not 'pothead'

Those convicted of pot possession may face only a fine, but they also 
suffer from the stigma of a "druguser" label, said one local mother, 
who spoke only on the condition that her name and her son's not be used.

She said she and other family members, and her son, are "hassled" by 
police in local stores about his marijuana use. "It's ongoing," she 
said. But she describes her son as a "well-educated man," with 
college degrees, not a stereotypical "pothead." She hates the bad 
reputation marijuana has.

"Marijuana is a drug that is less addictive than alcohol, she said.

She believes the state could regulate marijuana similar to how it 
regulates alcohol. And she thinks people should be allowed to grow 
their own-not unlike people who brew their own beer.

"Keep it illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana, and if 
it's regulated, it won't be any more expensive than what it is 
currently being sold for on the street corner," she believes.

Regulation could also keep it out of the hands of minors, she added.

Vices making $$

Alva said Pennsylvania is already exploiting vices in the name of 
revenue production.

"Gambling is a vice, but yet we have a state lottery system in place 
that benefits senior citizens, and legal casinos that provide 
property tax relief," he said. "It's still a vice, but it's OK 
because it's doing some good. Drinking is a vice, but yet we have the 
largest state-run system for it, and get income from that as well."

Alva says the key to possibly changing the law is to demonstrate that 
current statutes are antiquated.

"We need to engage our lawmakers into discussions about these 
draconian laws we have about marijuana," Alva said.

For example, the most a marijuana plant will harvest is about two 
ounces of smokeable product.

"However, a full plant in Pennsylvania counts as one pound for 
sentencing purposes," he said. "Three plants gets you a mandatory 
jail-time sentence."

Tough sell

Alva and the local mother agree that, with today's aging population, 
changing the law is a tough sell.

"When I went to school, we had drug education and were led to believe 
that you would bake your child in the oven 20 years later because of 
smoking weed," the concerned mother said. "The people that were 
taught that are the ones who predominately vote now. That's what we 
are fighting against."

"Pennsylvania is a conservative state, and certainly there would be 
issues with it being imported, but it can be grown here and it is 
being grown here," Alva said. "Let's all go with the flow and make 
the best of it."
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