Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach (D-17) is pushing legislation that would legalize marijuana in the Commonwealth, like Washington and Colorado. Of course, one should take into consideration the fact that Pennsylvania really is nothing like either Washington or Colorado, politically or otherwise. Well, all three states do have mountains, but that may be where the similarities end.
Sen. Leach undoubtedly means well, and he is generally correct in his assertion that the most likely reason that the Pennsylvania legislature would pass such a measure would be for financial reasons. However, aiming directly for the legalization of marijuana in one of the few remaining states that maintains a stranglehold on the sale of wine and spirits is a bit... well... crazy. Before talking about the Commonwealth taking over the control and sale of yet another vice, maybe it would be a good idea to sell off the liquor stores to private vendors first. Sure, there might be an argument for combining the two, for the sake of convenience. Well, maybe not.
“NORML applauds Senator Leach for taking this important step forward to end the failed policy of marijuana prohibition in his state. Pennsylvania has long been considered a bellwether state that sets the precedent for politics across the country, as such it is both exciting and encouraging to see the Keystone State take up this crucial dialogue,” said Erik Altieri, Communications Director for NORML, “Marijuana prohibition costs the state of Pennsylvania over 300 million dollars a year in enforcement costs and tens of millions a year in lost potential tax revenue, while doing little to keep the substance out of the hands of children or lower use rates. It is time for a new policy that works for the state and its people. We encourage all of Senator Leach’s colleagues in Harrisburg to join him in this call for rational marijuana laws.”
Other than the fact that the people pictured on the NORML website might make one think of that old REM tune, "Shiny, Happy People", the organization seems to be fairly dedicated to its cause. Whether or not it's taken very seriously in Pennsylvania remains to be seen. It might not be a good idea to send certain members of its advisory board, though - like half of the comedy team, Cheech and Chong.
Yes, it would be nice to see the courts in Pennsylvania lose quite a few cases of low-level marijuana possession from the dockets. It would be lovely to see fewer people have trouble finding gainful employment due to a past history with these sorts of crimes. And, like anywhere else in this country, it would be nice to see some revenue to offset the cost of enforcement and punishment for drug-related crimes. And there are some places in this country that are probably ready to deal with this sort of change. Unfortunately, Pennsylvania simply isn't anywhere close to being ready for this. As mentioned previously, the Commonwealth doesn't trust trade of wine and spirits to the private sector. Sen. Leach might be assuming that the distribution of legal marijuana would occur only in state-owned facilities. If that is the case, then that alone is a good reason to turn down this measure. Regardless, it is delusional to think that lawmakers in Pennsylvania would pass this sort of law while failing to give up state control of liquor sales even a little.