Lighting up: marijuana legalization proposed in Pa.

State Sen. Daylin Leach (D-17th) announced Monday his proposal to legalize marijuana in Pennsylvania, a move swiftly dismissed by a spokeswoman for Gov. Tom Corbett (R) as not being “in the interest of public safety.”

Unlike previous proposals to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes, Leach’s bill would legalize it for anyone over 21 to use. He said it would be treated much in the same way alcohol is.

“This is a cruel, irrational policy that we’ve had for 75 years,” said Leach. “Marijuana is less dangerous than alcohol and tobacco.”

When asked how businesses potentially selling marijuana would be regulated by the government, Leach said that wasn’t clear yet.

He acknowledged the political challenge in getting a proposal like this one passed but pointed to recent laws passed in Colorado and Washington legalizing pot.

“People ask me about the politics of this. In the short term, it’s a tough slog. But, long term, and not that long term, it’s inevitable,” said Leach.

Under his plan, DUI laws would still apply. There would be no limit on how much pot you can buy. But, like alcohol, you can’t re-sell it. There would be limits on how much a person could grow. Leach aimed to have the bill filed by Tuesday morning.

Past efforts to legalize marijuana in the commonwealth have been unsuccessful.

“Governor Corbett has personally witnessed the devastation of illegal drugs on Pennsylvania communities throughout his career; he does not believe that loosening restrictions on illegal drugs is in the interest of public safety,” said Janet Kelley, a spokeswoman for Gov. Corbett, in a statement to Fox43.

A Franklin & Marshall College poll released last week found some support for legalizing marijuana among Pennsylvanians.

The pollsters asked, “Generally speaking, do you favor or oppose allowing adults to legally use marijuana for medical purposes if a doctor recommends it?”

They found 82 percent of those surveyed at least somewhat favored that idea, with 51 percent strongly favoring it.

When asked, “Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal or not,” 36 percent said yes while 55 percent said no. When the pollsters asked that question in May 2006, 22 percent said yes while 72 percent said no.

Leach invited a psychiatrist and a former law enforcement professional to share their thoughts at his press conference Monday.

They pointed to issues such as medical benefits and the cost to the judicial system to prosecute cases involving nonviolent offenders using marijuana.

Major Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, is retired from the Maryland State Police. He described the “violence of illicit drug trade,” and gangs thriving on the illegal sale of marijuana.

Cumberland County District Attorney Dave Freed (R) handled one of the region’s biggest marijuana busts last year when police seized nearly 2,700 pot plants estimated to generate $10 million in product per year.

Freed said he does not believe legalizing marijuana would significantly reduce the kinds of crimes Franklin described.

“I know what’s going on, and what’s going is: marijuana’s a gateway that leads to crime and leads other drugs,” said Freed. “And this is, frankly, a waste of time and a waste of effort. If law enforcement in Pennsylvania was behind this, you would have seen some law enforcement in Pennsylvania out there today.”