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Popping the question on 'Pot'

To legalize or not to legalize


State Sen. Daylin Leach is leading the fight to legalize marijuana in Pennsylvania.

But will the reward outweigh the risk if he succeeds and cannabis is legalized in the state?

Senator Leach clearly thinks the rewards from increased state revenues and decreased enforcement costs outweigh the risks. His legalization bill, introduced in April, would tax and regulate marijuana for adult use like alcohol in the state.

“It is time for Pennsylvania to be a leader in jettisoning this modern-day prohibition, and ending a policy that has been destructive, costly and anti-scientific,” said Leach, who has also introduced a bill that would allow people with certain serious illnesses in Pennsylvania to purchase and possess marijuana. This bill is commonly known as the medical marijuana bill.

Currently 20 states and the District of Columbia allow medical marijuana. Two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized marijuana for adult recreational use.

While some agree with Sen. Leach and believe this is the time for Pennsylvania to change its marijuana laws, opponents point to health problems and other concerns with legalization.

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy strongly opposes legalization of marijuana, contending legalization would have a “negative impact on may aspects of our lives, from public health to national security, transportation, the environment and education attainment,” according to a posting on the ONDCP website.

Many organizations such as the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), the Marijuana Policy Project, the American Civil Liberties Union and Pennsylvania’s NAACP have endorsed Sen Leach’s bills to legalize marijuana for adult use and approve marijuana for medical usages.

These organizations support legalization for various reasons. NORML, MPP and the ACLU focus on individual liberties plus the desire to end the prohibition of pot. The Pennsylvania NAACP supports legalization as a method for ending what it believes to be police arrest practices that discriminate against blacks.

Currently in Pennsylvania, marijuana is categorized as a Schedule I drug under the state's Drug Device and Cosmetic Act and it is considered a dangerous drug with high abuse potential and no accepted medical use.

Possession of marijuana for personal use is graded under state law as a misdemeanor, while possession with intent to deliver or manufacture marijuana is graded as a felony.

Possession of one ounce or less carries a penalty on conviction of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine, although most first-time offenders receive probation. (By contrast, the maximum penalties for summary offenses such as underage drinking, public drunkenness, disorderly conduct and criminal mischief is 90 days in jail, with maximum fines ranging from $300 to $1,000).

In addition, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will suspend the offender’s driver's license for six months for a first conviction, one year for a second conviction and two years for a third or subsequent conviction.

Furthermore, a person convicted of any drug possession offense faces a lifetime ban on receiving federally subsidized student financial aid, a penalty not applicable to persons convicted of serious felonies like armed robbery, rape or murder.

story | by Dr. Radut