HARRISBURG – Marijuana should be legalized in Pennsylvania and sold to adults alongside liquor to raise revenue and remove the threat of criminal prosecution for pot smokers, the sponsor of a bill to do just that said Monday.
“For the last 75 years, we’ve been treating people who smoke a plant as criminals,” Sen. Daylin Leach said. “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.”
Leach proposes that legalized pot be sold with liquor and wine at state stores to people who are at least 21.
Pennsylvania needlessly spends nearly $350 million a year arresting, prosecuting, incarcerating and monitoring people for marijuana crimes, the Montgomery County Democrat said. At the same time, the state is leaving hundreds of millions of dollars a year on the table by not taxing legal marijuana and related businesses, he said.
“We simply can no longer afford the financial costs of prohibition,” he said.
Dr. David Nathan, a psychiatrist and director of Continuing Medical Education for Princeton HealthCare System in Princeton, N.J., said alcohol and tobacco are more harmful than marijuana in many respects.
“In healthy but reckless teens and young adults, it is frighteningly easy to consume a lethal dose of alcohol, but it is essentially impossible to do so with marijuana,” said Nathan, who joined Leach at a news conference. “Pot may cause harm, but the harm it causes is far less than that of alcohol.”
Gov. Tom Corbett has said he’d veto any legalization bill, even if it were limited to medical uses, because he believes marijuana is a “gateway drug” whose use leads to more dangerous drugs, according to his spokesman.
Leach said there is no evidence to support that claim, and current laws often push young people into “gateway environments” where they are exposed to other drugs.
Leach and Rep. Mark Cohen, D-Philadelphia, both sponsored medical marijuana bills that died in the last legislative session.