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Marijuana legalization bill debated in Pennsylvania Senate

People in Pittsburgh likely know that the movement to legalize marijuana in the U.S. has gained momentum in recent years, as more people come to believe that the government should not imprison people for medicinal or recreational use. The pace has quickened in recent months as voters Colorado and Washington state passed refernedums legalizing possession, sale and use of certain amounts of marijuana.

Many people in Pennsylvania believe that the state would benefit from treating marijuana more like alcohol than crystal meth or heroin. State Sen. Daylin Leach has introduced a bill to legalize and regulate marijuana use in the state.

If passed, Leach's bill would allow people age 21 and over to possess and use marijuana. As with alcohol, it would be against the law to drive under the influence of marijuana or sell it to minors. Public intoxication would also be a crime.

Leach said that, to her, legalization is a question of public safety and cost. She cited federal statistics showing that marijuana arrests cost Pennsylvania taxpayers a total of $325.36 million. Leach believes that marijuana could instead be a revenue generator if it were taxed at the point of sale. She believes that the state could collect hundreds of millions of dollars this way.

Legalization could also make marijuana use safer. Leach said that if the state regulated marijuana sales, dangerous additives would be caught before consumers unknowingly ingest them.

However, the bill has some opposition from politicians who believe marijuana is a "gateway drug," such as Attorney General Kathleen Kane.

Source: The Express Times, "Pennsylvania's attorney general opposes pot legalization," May 17, 2013

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