State Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery County) introduced legislation last week to legalize marijuana use in Pennsylvania for adults age 21 and older.
Gov. Tom Corbett has already stated opposition to the proposal.
Leach has also introduced a few medical marijuana bills in the Pennsylvania Senate, the latest of which in 2011 was co-sponsored by two state senators from Allegheny County, Jim Ferlo and Wayne Fontana.
Leach’s latest proposal would provide for legal possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. He envisions that it could be sold alongside alcohol in state liquor stores and at beer distributors. Production, distribution and sale would be regulated in the same way as alcohol.
He said the state should tax the sale, which at $1 per joint could yield $200 million annually.
"We have spent billions of dollars investigating, prosecuting, incarcerating and monitoring millions of our fellow citizens who have hurt nobody, damaged no property, breached no peace," Leach said in a co-sponsorship memoranda. "Their only 'crime' was smoking a plant which made them feel a bit 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 and less addictive than chocolate. They used a product which has never killed anybody, and whose societal harm comes from its prohibition rather than its properties."
In his memoranda, Leach cited Office of National Drug Control Policy figures that showed in 2006, an average year, 24,685 marijuana arrests were made in Pennsylvania—at a cost of $325 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," Leach wrote. "Aside from the moral issues involved, we simply can no longer afford the financial costs of prohibition."
However, marijuana use would be treated similar to alcohol. Under the terms of this proposed legislation, marijuana would be a regulated product similar to alcohol. It would still be illegal to drive while impaired by marijuana as currently defined by state law. Minors would be prohibited from buying or possessing marijuana. It could not be resold, its use in public would be prohibited, and employers and others could prohibit use of marijuana on their property.
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