Lawmaker introduces bill to legalize Marijuana use in PA-What are your thoughts?
HARRISBURG — Bammy, chillums, funk or cheeba. No matter what you call marijuana, a Montgomery County state lawmaker wants it to be legal in Pennsylvania.
Sen. Daylin Leach said he is introducing a bill that would legalize pot for all purposes.
If approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Tom Corbett — a possibility that seems as hazy as the smoke from a well-lit joint — Leach said you would have to be at least 21 to toke up.
“Medicinal, recreational, whatever you want to use it for,” the suburban Philadelphia Democrat said.
If signed into law, Pennsylvania would follow Washington and Colorado as the states that have legalized the recreational use of the controversial drug. Eighteen other states allow the use of marijuana for medical treatments. Federal law still renders pot smoking as an illegal activity.
Leach said it would be illegal to drive a vehicle while under the influence of pot, if his bill becomes law. Pennsylvanians also would be barred from “blowing a stick” in public.
If it sounds similar to the way Pennsylvania deals with alcohol, Leach confirmed that and said people would have to buy marijuana in a state store.
“We already have an infrastructure of facilities that are around the state that are used to checking ID, that are used to dealing with intoxicants, that are used to collecting taxes,” Leach said.
Washington’s liquor control board will oversee marijuana sales when the stuff hits the shelves in December.
And, just as people are allowed to brew beer at home, pot smokers also would be allowed to grow up to six cannabis plants, with only three of them flowering at one time. You could also share your home-grown broccoli with someone else, as long as he or she is at least 21 years old.
Leach said the state’s prohibition against marijuana is a “cruel, irrational policy” that improperly treats its users as criminals.
“These are people who’ve done no harm to any other person. They’ve done no harm to property. They’ve breached the peace in no way,” he said.
In arguing his case for the legalization of pot, the senator said marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco. A psychiatrist from the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey agreed.
“In several respects, even sugar poses more of a threat to our nation’s public health than marijuana,” said Dr. David Nathan, a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.
“Alcohol causes severe impairment of judgment, which results in violence, drunk driving, risky sexual behavior and the use of harder drugs. Pot may cause harm, but the harm it causes is far less than that of alcohol,” Nathan said Monday afternoon during a press conference in the state’s Capitol.
Besides, said Leach, a person cannot kill themselves by smoking too much pot.
“You can sit down and drink 10, 20 shots and you can overdose and you can die,” Leach said.
Nathan, however, did say the chronic use of cannabis can stir low motivation and poor grades in school if a user starts smoking as an adolescent.
“But these dangers pale in comparison to the perils of alcohol, which is associated with pancreatitis, gastritis, cirrhosis, permanent dementia and physiological dependence,” Nathan said.
The White House, however, said the downward trend of marijuana usage in 12- to 17-year-olds has ended and more than 370,000 people go to the emergency room “with a primary marijuana problem.”
The Obama administration says marijuana use is associated with mental illness, distorted perceptions, depression, suicidal thoughts and schizophrenia. It also says pot smoke has 50-70 percent more carcinogens than tobacco smoke.
In a state that needs new sources of revenue, Leach said, legalized marijuana could generate “hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars.”
He also said it would save prosecutors millions of dollars more. In 2006, he said nearly 25,000 pot-related arrests were made in Pennsylvania. The price tag for that effort, citing Office of National Drug Control Policy: $325 million.
Opponents to legalizing marijuana, like the president, say the social costs would outweigh new tax revenue gains