Experts Weigh In On Benefits Of Legalizing Marijuana In Pennsylvania

State Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery/Delaware) held a news conference at the State Capitol Building to announce the introduction of his bill that would legalize marijuana in Pennsylvania.

Leach was joined by a member of the law enforcement community, a physician, and an agriculture expert to discuss the positive impacts marijuana could have on our state. Speakers included Neill Franklin, Executive Director, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition; David Nathan, M.D., a clinical associate professor at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, who teaches and practices general adult psychiatry in Princeton, New Jersey; and Les Stark, the author of the book Hempstone Heritage.

“The modern prohibition of marijuana does a disservice to Pennsylvania by tying up our resources in the prosecution of its users; by depriving us of the revenue that this marijuana could generate; and by denying the Pennsylvanians suffering from terminal illnesses access to a natural medicine that could take away their pain,” Leach said. “It’s time we legalize marijuana and reap the benefits it has to offer.”

Rep. Mark Cohen (D-Philadelphia), who also plans to introduce a legalization bill in the House of Representatives, said that legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana would make sense from an economic standpoint.

Cohen said, “Given the state’s lackluster economy and Governor Tom Corbett’s anti-tax philosophy, legalizing marijuana would likely raise millions of dollars per year for the Commonwealth. It would also cripple the illegal drug networks throughout Pennsylvania in the same way that the State Lottery has crippled traditional organized crime networks that operated the numbers racket statewide.”

Neill Franklin said, “Cops see the ineffectiveness and harms of marijuana prohibition up close every day,” said Franklin, a retired Baltimore narcotics cop. “Keeping marijuana illegal doesn’t significantly reduce use, but it does give tax-free profits to violent gangs and cartels that control the black market. Now, thanks to Sen. Leach’s proposal, Pennsylvania has a chance to join Colorado and Washington in letting police focus on the job we signed up to do – keeping the public safe – instead of being distracted by chasing down marijuana users.”

Dr. David Nathan said he believes that the criminalization of marijuana does little to limit its use and is inconsistent with the public health approach taken to similar substances. “Our nation can acknowledge the dangers of cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana while still permitting their use,” said Nathan. “The only logically and morally consistent argument for marijuana prohibition necessitates the criminalization of all harmful recreational drugs, including alcohol, nicotine and caffeine. We can agree that such an infringement on personal freedoms is as impractical as it is un-American. The time has come to accept that our nation’s attitude toward marijuana has been misguided for generations and that the only rational approach to cannabis is to legalize, regulate and tax it.”

Les Stark added, “Pennsylvania has a long history of hemp production. Legalizing cannabis and hemp production will be an economic boon to Pennsylvania, create jobs, bring in revenue help the environment and save the family farm.”

Leach has been vocal about the benefits Pennsylvanians could reap by legalizing marijuana, most notably by bringing in much-needed tax revenue, providing a legal treatment alternative to patients suffering from terminal illness and finally ending a prohibition on a natural substance that causes no harm and cannot become the source of an addiction.

According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, 24,685 marijuana arrests were made in Pennsylvania in 2006 at a cost of $325.36 million to taxpayers. Leach argued that his bill to legalize marijuana would not only make our streets safer but save our state millions of dollars per year.

“In addition to raising millions of dollars per year from tax revenue, Pennsylvania would save millions of dollars per year by legalizing marijuana. The most conservative estimates say the revenue generated by taxing the sales of marijuana would amount to at least $24 million per year. Legalizing and taxing marijuana could provide a multi-million dollar recurring revenue source that our state could tap into for years to come,” Leach said.

Under the terms of Leach’s bill, marijuana would be a regulated product, treated similarly to alcohol. He noted that his bill would not change current laws against driving under the influence of marijuana, selling marijuana to minors and disorderly conduct while publicly intoxicated.

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