Pubdate: Wed, 09 Jan 2013
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (PA)
Copyright: 2013 PG Publishing Co., Inc.
Author: Daylin Leach
Note: Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, represents District 17 in the
Pennsylvania Senate (


In November the people of Washington state and Colorado voted to fully
legalize marijuana. Other places, including California, have had de
facto legalization for some time.

This week, I am introducing legislation which would have Pennsylvania
join these states in ending this modern-day Prohibition. My bill would
legalize the consumption of marijuana for adults over the age of 21
without regard to the purpose of that consumption. Here's why.

For the past 75 years, our marijuana policy has been foolish, costly
and destructive, and it must end. We have been waging a "war on drugs"
that includes treating the use of marijuana as a matter for the
criminal justice system. We have spent billions of dollars
investigating, prosecuting, incarcerating and monitoring millions of
our fellow citizens who have hurt no one, damaged no property,
breached no peace. Their only "crime" was smoking a plant which made
them feel giddy.

People across our commonwealth have spent time in prison, lost time at
work, been forced to hire lawyers and had their lives disrupted and
sometimes destroyed because they used a product less dangerous than
beer, less risky than children's cough syrup, less addictive than
chocolate and whose societal harm comes from its prohibition rather
than its use.

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, in 2006, an
average year, 24,685 marijuana arrests were made in Pennsylvania at a
cost of $325.36 million. Each year we not only spend a similar amount,
we leave several hundred million dollars on the table in taxes that we
do not collect because marijuana is illegal rather than regulated and
taxed. Aside from the moral issues involved, we simply can no longer
afford the financial costs of prohibition.

Further, prohibition has done what it did in the case of alcohol in
the 1930s. It has created a dangerous black market with violent and
bloody turf wars that kill many people in our country and elsewhere.
The original Prohibition brought us the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.
Modern prohibition has brought us gun battles in the streets between
drug cartels. Murders associated with the sale of alcohol ended with
Prohibition. The same will be true of marijuana, although I realize
cartels often traffic in other drugs as well.

Under the terms of my legislation, marijuana would be regulated,
treated in a way similar to how alcohol is treated. It would still be
illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana, behave badly while
publicly intoxicated or to sell it to minors.

Further, like alcohol, legalization and regulation would make
marijuana safer. Pennsylvanians no longer would have to buy it on the
streets from criminals who may have laced their product with other
dangerous substances. People buying legally can know exactly what they
are getting and rely on its safety.

Marijuana was legal until the late 1930s. In fact, it was the most
prescribed drug in the nation. At that time, it was targeted by those
who had an economic interest in removing it from the market. Today,
marijuana prohibition is supported by misconceptions and old wives'
tales that do not stand up to scientific scrutiny.

For example, Gov. Tom Corbett said he opposed my bill because he
"believes" marijuana is a "gateway drug." But science has clearly
established that this is untrue. Well over 90 percent of those who use
marijuana never go on to use harder drugs, and the percentage of
people who do use hard drugs and had previously used marijuana is no
higher than the percentage who had previously tried only beer.

Unlike alcohol, you cannot overdose on marijuana. Unlike alcohol and
tobacco, marijuana is not physically addictive. Studies have shown
that people on marijuana are much less likely to behave violently or
recklessly than people who are drunk. And while breathing a hot gas
into your lungs certainly isn't good for you, marijuana smokers on
average smoke far less often than tobacco smokers. There is no way
that marijuana ever could come close to killing the 1,100 people each
day that tobacco does.

Despite all of this, adults can drink and smoke tobacco freely. But if
you smoke marijuana, you are a criminal and can go to jail.

This horrific policy must end. People around the nation are realizing
that. It is a moral imperative that Pennsylvania wake up and legalize

Daylin Leach, D-Montgomery, represents District 17 in the Pennsylvania
Senate ( 
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