Most of your friends who moved to Boulder to “just live for a little while” probably found it redundant when Colorado legalized recreational marijuana last month in a statewide ballot referendum. But they did. And so did Washington state. Which means, who knows, marijuana legalization could come here soon, too, right?
Tradition would say otherwise. Over the last four years, two medical marijuana bills have sat in the Pennsylvania Legislature just waiting to come up for a vote. And they haven’t. Not once. But advocates hope next year will be different.
“We’re sending around the co-sponsorship memo,” says state Sen. Daylin Leach of the new push for legislation. Leach has been the prime sponsor of a medical marijuana bill for the last two legislative sessions. “Hopefully, we’ll get all those [who co-sponsored the bill last year] to do it again and get new people, as well. It’s becoming clearer that you can be open about supporting medical options for everybody.”
Most recently, in April 2011, Senate Bill 1003 was introduced by Leach and Sens. Larry Farnese, Wayne Fontana and Jim Ferlo to local fanfare but zero national attention. The Committee on Public Health and Welfare refused to hold hearings on it which basically means that Leach & co. need to re- introduce it in the new year.
Marijuana advocates have used every tactic in the book to get Harrisburg on the record with this thing, including—but not exclusively—getting several members of the U.S. armed forces to testify on behalf of using the stuff to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder.
And polls show that state residents feel pretty positive about the issue. A 2010 Franklin & Marshall survey showed that 80 percent of Pennsylvanians favored legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes, which is massive bipartisan support in a state where there is often none.
“It’s a tragedy that people are being denied medical marijuana because of irrational wives’ tales and a disregard for sound science,” says Leach, who says it’s “inevitable” that a bill in Pennsylvania eventually passes. (It would still have to get past Gov. Corbett, who views marijuana as a “gateway drug.”)
While only 33 percent of Pennsylvanians in that poll favored full legalization, the number has been steadily rising. “Discussions have already started with politicians in Harrisburg about crafting a comprehensive legalization bill,” says Chris Goldstein, a local marijuana advocate who serves on the board of directors of the Philly chapter of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML). “One that would cover medical use, industrial hemp and regulated, recreational cannabis. We expect more info in December and a bill introduction in early 2013.”
“National polling shows a majority of Americans support full legalization,” Goldstein continues. (According to a poll released this week by Public Policy Polling, 58 percent of Americans favor legalization.) “I think that as other states move forward, Pa. residents and politicians will not want to be left behind.”