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Candidates call for pot legalization – abc27 WHTM Member Center: Keystoned State? Candidates call for pot legalization Posted: By Dennis Owens – bio | email HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – The candidate for governor referenced Clinton,Bush and Obama during a Capitol news conference. “The last three presidents of the United States would be drug criminals had they been caught smoking marijuana,” John Hanger said. Hanger is not running for president but he is a Democratic contender for governor, and he’s not ducking or dodginghis drug beliefs, as those aforementioned presidents. He’s championing the immediate legalization of marijuana for medical purposes. “Here in Pennsylvania we deny sick people their medicine with these laws,” Hanger said. State Representative Mike O’Brien (D-Philadelphia) is a co-sponsor of a medical marijuana bill. “I think it’s less destructive to the body to be able to smoke a joint as opposed to take an Oxycontin,” O’Brien said. Polls suggest that 82 percent of Pennsylvanians support medical marijuana legalization. Harrisburg’s Elaine Strokoff is among them. “If it’s going to help someone feel better, do better, ifthey’re suffering from a disease, thenabsolutely it should be legalized,” she said. State Senator Rob Teplitz (D-Dauphin/York) supports it, too, but only with doctor’s orders. “You don’t want to see an outbreak of glaucoma on every college campus,” Teplitz said. “You want to make sure it’s legitimate.” But Hanger unveiled his plan and it would go further. By 2015, he’d de-criminalize marijuana possession. By 2017, he’d legalize it and tax it. He estimates that law enforcement spends $325 million arresting and prosecuting 25,000 Pennsylvanians for minor marijuana offenses. Wasted money and wasted time, he says, focusing on wasted people. But Hanger’s not Bogarting the issue. State Senator Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery)is running for Congress and proudlypushing legalized pot. “We are treating people as criminals for doing something that is less dangerous than beer, less risky than children’s cough syrup and less addictive than chocolate,” Leach said. Butis Pennsylvania about to become the Keystoned State? Not likely. Plenty of lawmakers, including Teplitz, draw the line at medical marijuana and won’t support recreational use, promises of tax windfalls notwithstanding. “There are a lot of things we can legalize and make money for the state, but they’d be harmful to our community and I think drug use could be one of those,” Teplitz said. Governor Tom Corbett doesn’t support marijuana legalization, even for medical reasons. His spokesman says there are synthetic drugs that are just as effective in battling diseases as pot. Harrisburg’s Jerry Keenehan worries aboutabuse of the system. “You have a line that’s gonna be crossed if it’s approved for medical purposes,” he said. “People would find ways to take advantage of that for non-medical reasons. That would be my biggest concern.” But they’rehigh times in Pennsylvania when major party candidates for Congress and governor unabashedly support marijuana legalization. Could it be a sign that the public’s heading that way too? “I will concede this is not a case of a politician running to get in front of a parade,” Hanger said. “I am leading today and I am trying to shape public opinion as well as lead public opinion.”

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About the Author: Matt Brooks

Matt is a journalist from San Francisco who has specialized in marijuana policy for more than six years.

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