Will Pennsylvania See Legal Marijuana in 2013?

When it comes to legal pot in the Keystone State, the problem isn’t the dopers, it’s the dopes in office.

Back in the ’70s, former Pennsylvania Governor Raymond Shafer’s national commission on marijuana ultimately recommended the decriminalization of pot with reams of scientific evidence. President Nixon ignored those findings, thereby throwing the U.S. into our decades-long War on Drugs.

But with huge victories for pot in 2012, the heady wave of legalization is beginning to crest, emboldening activists across the country—including those in Shafer’s old stomping grounds. And if we can educate our politicians a bit, the Keystone State might just get a little greener in 2013.

The chance this year, again, comes from Sen. Daylin Leach, who is resurrecting his failed medical marijuana bill from past legislative sessions to (hopefully) more support. But besides that bill, Leach says he will also introduce a marijuana decriminalization measure for the commission’s consideration. Unfortunately, Leach’s past pot efforts have invariably been met with little media recognition or lawmaker support. Lucky for Pennsylvania’s marijuana set, though, some guys just don’t know when to quit.

Admittedly, at first glance, any form of legal weed for Pennsylvanians seems a long way off. I mean, we can’t even buy beer and liquor—or even a six-pack and a case of brew—in the same place. Harry Anslinger, the guy who brought us Reefer Madness and the ridiculous gateway drug myth, is from Altoona. Roughly half (17,000 or so) of our yearly drug arrests are for marijuana possession. Even pundit god Terry Madonna doesn’t see a lot of hope for the cause in PA.

Yet, all is not lost. A 2010 poll conducted by Madonna himself found that 80 percent of Pennsylvanians support medical marijuana for the state, while another 33 percent are for outright legalization. Clearly, the people want their pot—it’s just a matter of telling (or maybe convincing) our politicians that this is what we really want. Because, honestly, there isn’t a whole lot of serious cannabis consideration going on with those guys.

Take, for example, our beloved governor, Tom Corbett. He’s vehemently against pot, saying recently that he’d veto any marijuana legalization legislation—medical or otherwise—that reaches his desk. And that’s on top of a spokesman saying that Corbett believes “smoking marijuana is a crime, should remain a crime and that marijuana is a gateway drug.” More than a little political posturing going on there, to be sure, but Corbett’s point is made: no weed, no how. How else are you going to keep those prisons full, right, Tom?

Not surprisingly, Corbett’s subordinates are towing the big guy’s line. Delco DA Jack Whelan recently said he believes marijuana is used only to get high, and that FDA-approved treatments for cancer, AIDS, etc. are better suited for their purpose. House Appropriations majority leader Bill Adolph says he hasn’t even heard about marijuana from his constituents. Northampton County’s DA, John Morganelli, doesn’t think we need “more dopers running around.” And on, and on, and on.

The problem’s not the dopers, though—it’s these dopes. Tom Corbett may be a governor, but he believes in a myth that got debunked 40 years ago. Jack Whelan, a lawyer from Delco and not a doctor, would rather have patients take addictive narcotics simply because they’re already legally available. John Morganelli apparently believes he’s actually in Reefer Madness (“dopers,” really?). They’re squandering potential tax dollars, missing a political opportunity for the Republican Party to own the weed issue, and keeping a whole lot of people sicker than they need to be. If this is who we’ve got controlling our pot laws, maybe we are in trouble. These men must know they sound ridiculous.

Terry Madonna told the Morning Call that Corbett’s hardline stance seems to be a tactic to scare minority leaders away from pressing the issue. Luckily, that doesn’t seem to have worked with Leach.

But even with 80 percent support for medical marijuana, it will still be a fight in 2013 to get our green. Our state’s most vocal marijuana proponents, the Philly and Pittsburgh chapters of NORML, are woefully underfunded if they’re expected to spread the message and alter policy. Donations, money, are the blood of any political cause, and legal pot is a political issue like anything else that runs on cash. Hey, somebody’s got to lobby.

After all, Daylin Leach can’t do it all by himself. But then, he’s got about 10 million Pennsylvanians behind him. We’ve just got to yell at Corbett and his ilk loud enough this year.

Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Malcolm-Kyle/100001700224506 Malcolm Kyle

    Legally regulated (manufacture, distribution and consumption) of marijuana is coming to a state near you in 2013:

    CALIFORNIA

    “These laws just don’t make sense anymore. It’s shocking, from my perspective, the number of people that we all know who are recreational marijuana users… these are incredibly upstanding citizens: Leaders in our community, and exceptional people.”

    —Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom (preparing the way for Governor Jerry Brown to initiate proceedings to legalize and regulate marijuana through the state legislature)

    MAINE

    Maine’s legislature is moving on a legalization-and-regulation bill that could bring the state $8 million a year in new revenue.

    ”The people are far ahead of the politicians on this. Just in the past few weeks we’ve seen the culture shift dramatically.”

    —Rep. Diane Russell of Portland, District 120 (Occupation: Public Relations Consultant)

    NEVADA

    “Thinking we’re not going to have it is unrealistic. It’s just a question of how and when”

    —Assemblyman Richard (Tick) Segerblom of Las Vegas, elected to the Nevada State Senate in 2012

    OREGON

    “We have decades of evidence that says prohibition does not work and it’s counterproductive. it’s a matter of dollars and common sense. There’s a source of revenue that’s reasonable that is rational that is the right policy choice for our state. We are going to get there on legalization.”

    —Peter Buckley, co-chair of the Oregon state legislature’s budget committee.

    RHODE ISLAND

    Rhode Island is also expected to legally regulate marijuana through the state legislature instead of a popular referendum.

    ”Our prohibition has failed, Legalizing and taxing it, just as we did to alcohol, is the way to do it.”

    —Rep. Edith Ajello, chairs the House Committee on Judiciary and is a member of the House Oversight Committee.

    VERMONT

    In November 2012, the state’s Democratic governor, Peter Shumlin, cruised to re-election while strongly backing marijuana decriminalization. And the city of Burlington passed a resolution in November 2012 calling for an end to prohibition – with 70 percent support.

    ALASKA

    Most Alaskans already have a clear view of things from their own back garden. Personal use and possession of Marijuana in Alaskan homes has been effectively legal since 1975.

  • Jillian Galloway

    Here’s something we never hear suggested. You’ve got 10 million supporters, so ask for ONE dollar from everyone. Everybody asks for $20, $30, $100 – the more the better – and often ends up with nothing. But if you ask for just $1 from everyone you might just end up with exactly what you need.

    • kevin_hunt

      NORML had that strategy back in the day. I sent them a dollar bill in an envelope.

  • http://twitter.com/mustardfoot Joseph Phillips

    You’re right about money. Organized political movements require market muscle, and people need to step up and get involved. I’m really surprised at Pennsylvania. The grass roots efforts need to go deeper, and so do the pockets of advocates. Richard Branson vs, Anslinger. Do we want reefer madness, or do we want to be part of the future?

  • chris

    So is it legal?? or going to be..???

  • http://www.facebook.com/mike.mallery.39 Mike Mallery

    I am a pennsylvanian. Our state govt is as uptite as an old english nanny. And honestly pot heads arent the most motivated gung ho people on the planet. Call or email ur local congress men or women. Tell them what u want or they lose ur vote next election. politicians only cate about reelection. legalize buds.

  • mccupycake

    when are they making where you can smoke weed in pennsylvania

  • http://www.facebook.com/scott.snavely1 Scott Snavely

    marijuana is safe than alcohol and piil and has no side effect I do not believe it I a gate way drug

  • mel ole

    i was just recently diagnosed with MS and originally from PA and i had to move back to my mom’s (in PA) so i have some help. this area has still had no change. i refuse to be on Pain meds for my illness! my doctor said the lesions on my brain have been there for years and there is a possibility that my marijuana use has kept it silent for all these years. why do u want to prescribe something to sick ppl that they can die from? its all about the $ in pharmaceutical sales….its a sad story

  • Deborah Swank

    If alcohol is to remain legal when it cost millions a year in damages not to mention the unnecessary life altering injuries and death, then Marijuana should be legalized too. How many people have been injured or killed and how much property damage has been done when someone is under the influence of Marijuana? And if Marijuana is a gateway drug so is alcohol. Not everyone who drinks will become an alcoholic and not everyone who smokes pot will become a drug addict. That is archaic reasoning! I am certainly more afraid of someone drinking and driving than smoking pot and driving! And how many people get into physical confrontations when smoking pot? People who are drunk will get into confrontations for no apparent reason with someone they don’t even know and maybe the person has done nothing to cause the drunk to confront them and then they end up with life altering injuries or they end up dead for no reason and no fault of their own! The reasoning for not legalizing Marijuana is archaic!

    • anna cole

      thank you

    • Hanson

      I have to say that, that is probably the best way I have ever heard someone reason about Marijuana.

  • Stephen Olson

    Ive had seizures for the past 4 years. Have tried too many drugs to help. One even made me hear voices. Had brain surgery about 4 months ago( 90 staples) to give you an idea how big this was. Found out after that the seizures are coming from below my motor functions. They could not do anything. Now Im have close to 100 sub clinical seizures a day( the kind you dont even feel) and about 1-10 a day that I do feel. After watching a show on CNN the other day. I think this is one of the last chances for me not to have seizures. Or at least minimize it. My life has as of the beginning of this has been ZERO. No life, cant drive, work, nothing. The current drugs I take are awful and do not help. Something has to give at this point. Would love to get my life back and get back to work and help support my wife and 2 kids.

  • Kenny Thompson

    Tom Corbett is either on the corporate payroll or ignorant of the facts and neither of these are acceptable. Sorry Mr. Corbett but you will not get another term.

  • Kenny Thompson

    I should have mentioned ObamaCare would be totally unneeded if cannabis was legalized. Many pharmaceuticals would be found far inferior as medicines and costs of prescriptions would fall in line with reality. Hospitals would suddenly have lots of room in them. Costs would drop. Of course this is exactly why they don’t want to pass legalization. They want us to pay with money, suffering and our very lives. Time to give a damn Pa! Let’s get off our collective asses and get this fixed!

  • Robert Quinn

    Please i even sell out my vote

  • Betsie Conway Deane

    What is wrong with this state. We’re like the Alabama of PA. Hillbillies in better clothes, What are we waiting for. God all that tax revenue being flushed down the toilet. It would be used for schools, more police & fire people, feeding the poor. There are any number of things we could spend this tax money WITHOUT raising taxed. What is wrong with us?????

  • anna cole

    maybe corbet will change his tune if he knows someone suffering from chemo therapy.he is killing us.pa is the most corrupt state .it makes me want to throw up.i am going to raise my son the right way and teach him that marijuana saves lives.people are killing themselves from depression and with the help of some sensi star that could decrease dramaticALLY.THESE PEOPLE THAT ARE AGAINST POT MAKE ME SCK.they are the ones with money so they dont have to worry about depression.god will punish them all im sure,so either way we will win.i have never voted in my life but i will to get corbet out.pot has never killed anyone but corbet sure is.this post was brought to you by Anthony Ryan, a very embarassed pennsylvanian. i am ashamed to live here