The marijuana legalization movement has been sweeping the United States. Even though marijuana still remains a Schedule I substance under federal law, many states have recently shifted their policies regarding marijuana. States now have legal medical marijuana (MT, AZ, NM, IL, MI, NJ, VT, & HI), decriminalized possession laws (MN, NE, MS, NC, OH, & NY), both medical marijuana and decriminalized laws (CA, AL, OR, NV, CT, RI, MA, VT, & ME), and even legalized recreational marijuana (CO & WA). With large parts of the country already on board with medical and recreational marijuana, the question is whether some kind of legalization will be coming to Pennsylvania any time soon.
On January 8, 2014, Penn Live polled its readers online, posing the question: should marijuana be legalized in Pennsylvania? The results were overwhelming. The poll closed with over 90.99% of respondents answering that marijuana should be legalized even for recreational use, 4.69% answering that marijuana should only be legal for medical use, and only 4.32% answering that marijuana should remain illegal. Also showing that there is a good deal of support for legalization in the state, a Facebook group promoting “Legalization in Pennsylvania 2014″ has over 4,200 likes.
The push for legalization and regulation is moving forward in the political system as well. The “Governor Raymond Shafer Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Act” is a Pennsylvania Senate Bill introduced by Sen. Daylin Leach (D) and Sen. Mike Folmer (R), which was referred to Law and Justice Committee on Jan. 15, 2014. If passed, this Act “establishes a Pennsylvania Medical Cannabis Board, allows for nonprofit compassionate care centers, and creates a medical cannabis identification card system.”
John Hanger (D), a former secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, is running for Governor in the upcoming November elections and has taken a strong stand on marijuana legalization. “This issue is moving and Democrats better get on board or we’ll lose this election to Tom Corbett because people will not come out and vote,” Hanger said January 22, 2014 at Lehigh University in Bethlehem. Besides the potential medical benefits and increase in tax revenue, Hanger thinks this issue is a key to expanding the voting population for the Democratic Party and beating Governor Corbett, who is opposed to any easing of Pennsylvania’s laws regarding marijuana.
There are likely many Penn State students and State College residents rooting for legalization, along with others across the state. Since public opinion seems to be behind it, there is a possibility that Pennsylvania could soon follow suit in the push for medical marijuana and decriminalization. However, this does not alter the current legal reality for users, distributors, and growers of marijuana in Pennsylvania. Police are not concerned with the ramifications of upcoming legislation, but are focused on enforcing the laws currently on the books. And even if legislation is eventually passed, the production, distribution, and use of marijuana could still land people in severe legal trouble, especially if children are involved.
Regardless of what stance you take on marijuana legalization, this issue is certainly something to keep your eye on.
If you have been charged with Marijuana possession or distribution, it is imperative to get in contact with a skilled defense attorney as soon as possible, since the penalties can be life-changing. Attorney Elizabeth Hunt is a former prosecutor with a strong track record of success defending Centre County residents with criminal drug charges. You can read more from Hunt Law about Defending Drug Charges in State College.