Pubdate: Sat, 29 Dec 2012
Source: Times Herald, The (Norristown, PA)
Copyright: 2012 The Times Herald
Author: Danielle Lynch
Note: The Associated Press contributed to this article.


State Sen. Daylin Leach, D-17, of Upper Merion, has plans to resurrect
a bill that would legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes
in Pennsylvania.

Some advocates of repealing or relaxing Pennsylvania's anti-marijuana
laws recently told the Associated Press they were encouraged by
referendum votes to legalize recreational use of the drug in Colorado
and Washington state.

Leach, who sponsored one of two medical-marijuana bills that died in
committee during the just-ended legislative session, said the
referendums results will help pave the way for similar measures in
other states. Leach said he intends to resurrect his bill to allow
marijuana use for medical purposes and will also sponsor a bill to
decriminalize the drug.

"The smoking of marijuana should not be handled as a criminal justice
issue," he said.

Other local officials had mixed reactions to legislation that would
legalize marijuana for medical purposes.

Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan said he was against the
proposal. Whelan said tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in
marijuana more commonly known as THC, can cause distortion in time,
place and manner.

Whelan, a Republican, argued the only reason people use marijuana is
to get high. In contrast, he said some people drink alcohol for social
and recreational reasons and there are can be benefits to having a
drink in moderation. For example, he said some people drink a glass of
red wine at dinner because it has been said to benefit the heart.

Even though advocates of medical use of marijuana have argued there
are positive benefits to its use, Whelan maintained he was against it.
He believes there are other treatments already approved by the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration that can help cancer patients, for
instance. In addition, Whelan said marijuana inhalation, similar to
smoking cigarettes, is harmful to the lungs.

Leach argued the prohibition of marijuana is more damaging than the
prohibition of alcohol which ended 80 years ago. He said that if there
was a safe, legal product there would be no incentives for people to
sell it illegally.

"It's time to end a prohibition that has caused so much damage," Leach

Leach said there would need to be restrictions with any legalization
such as no driving under the influence and age limits. Previous
versions of this bill called for the state sales tax to be imposed on
all sales of marijuana in Pennsylvania.

Kevin Harley, Republican Gov. Tom Corbett's spokesman, said the
governor would veto any legalization bill, even if it were limited to
medical purposes. "He believes that smoking marijuana is a crime,
should remain a crime and that marijuana is a gateway drug," Harley

"The issue of legalizing marijuana for medical uses has not been part
of our legislative agenda, but we're aware of the actions taken in
other states such as California, New Jersey and Massachusetts," said
Erik Arneson, a spokesman for state Senate Majority Leader Dominic
Pileggi, R-9, of Chester, in an email. "First and foremost, this is a
medical issue, and we have not heard from Pennsylvania's medical
community advocating for the General Assembly to take up the issue.
Given the recent comments of the governor's spokesman, it seems
there's no reason to expect it will be considered in the new session."

In the state House, state Rep. Mark Cohen, D-202, of Philadelphia, has
unsuccessfully sponsored medicalmarijuana bills in the last two
legislative sessions. He said he would introduce similar legislation
in the next session but he is not optimistic about its prospects.

State Rep. Greg Vitali, D-166, of Haverford, said he believes people
who are suffering from serious medical conditions, such as cancer,
should have this type of relief available so long as there are proper
safeguards in place.

Michael Stoll, a spokesman for House Appropriations Majority Leader
Bill Adolph, R-165, of Springfield, said this issue has not received a
lot of interest among members of the House Republican Caucus. It's
also not an issue that Adolph has heard about from constituents, Stoll

Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood said it's his
belief that marijuana has been "a gateway drug to more hardcore
drugs." He said he does not have an issue with marijuana being used to
treat someone with an illness so long as it is dispensed by a medical
doctor only. He does not believe marijuana should be dispensed by
someone who is not a doctor and said that has become a problem in
other states, such as California.

State Rep. Steve Barrar, R-160, of Upper Chichester, also pointed to
California as an example of state where the legalization of marijuana
has become out of hand. He took a shot at Leach and his effort to
resurrect the bill related to medical use of marijuana.

"I think this is an issue Sen. Leach is definitely high on," Barrar
said. "For me, this is an issue I will oppose as long as I'm in
office. I see no good coming from legalizing marijuana is any shape or

The Associated Press contributed to this article. 
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